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Full text of "Propædia prophetica : a view of the use and design of the Old Testament. Followed by two dissertations : I. On the causes of the rapid propagation of the gospel among the heathen. II. On the credibility of the facts related in the New Testament"

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Received September^ / SSo . 

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ST. Paul's church yard, 





ST. John's souare. 

















The general argument, embodied in the volume here 
presented to the public, was sketched out by me 
some ten or twelve years ago, and formed the subject 
of a series of discourses preached in the Chapel of 
Lincoln's Inn, for the Warburtonian Lecture. I 
have not described them in my title-page by this 
name, because, although they form the subject, they 
can hardly be considered as the substance of the 
Lectures then delivered. Many things will be found 
in this volume, which I did not preach ; and some 
things there are, which I had formerly written, but 
have seen reason since, either to alter or omit. 


By the terms of Bishop Warburton's will, it is 
stipulated, that the Lectures delivered under its 
foundation, shall be printed and published. 1 have 
hoped, that in giving to the public these commen- 
taries upon the same argument as I had chosen for 
the Lectures Avhich were preached, I shall be con- 
sidered as having sufficiently fulfilled the s|)irit of 
the testator's will, though I have not complied with 
the letter of his injunctions. 

Of the delay which has taken place in the publi- 
cation, it is hardly necessary to give any account. 
Many causes have conspired, and among others, the 
duties and avocations of a large and laborious parish. 
But the chief has been the hesitation felt by me in 
consequence of the apparent novelty, both of the 
general view which I have taken of the Evidences, 
and of many particular questions connected with 
them. New lights are commonly very unsafe lights 
to trust to, even in matters of minor importance ; 
but in religion they re(]uire, for the most jiart, to 
be known, onlv that thev niav be avoided. The 


reader, however, will, I hope, not be long in finding 
out, that in the present case, the novelty is more 
apparent than real ; and that, however I may some- 
times seem to transgress authority, yet in leaving 
the old and beaten tracks, in which the proofs of 
Christianity have so long been made to run, I 
am only, conducting him back into paths, far more 
ancient than those, from which he may be led for 
a time, to deviate. Nevertheless, if some of the 
propositions, which I shall venture to maintain, 
should appear more bold and hazardous, than is 
consistent with that wise respect which is always 
due to established arguments, I must claim so far 
to bespeak the candor of the reader, as to express 
my hope that he will suspend his final judgment, 
until he shall have perused the whole of the volume, 
and weighed every part of the reasoning. It would 
be too much to expect, that in all cases he should 
adopt my conclusions ; but at least he will, I think, 
be satisfied, that the effect of them, if received, would 
in no instance remove any part of the foundations 


on which the divine authority of our faith is com- 
monly placed. My design has been to strengthen 
and enlarge them. 

W. R. L. 

Hadleigh, Suffolk. 




Introductory Remarks 1 


On the Antecedent Credibility of a Divine Revelation .... 20 


Effect of a Preceding Expectation in the Evidence of Divine 

Revelation, examined 36 


Effect and Use of Prophecy, as connected with the Evidence of 

Divine Revelation 46 

On the Authenticity of the Old Testament 69 


Opinions of the Fathers of the First Three Centuries. — Meaning 

of the Prophecies fixed before the Coming of Christ ... 84 





On Prophecies, the Meaning of which was kept back until after 

the Event 109 

The proper Use of Prophecy in the present days, examined . . 128 


Connection of the Death of Christ with the Evidences of 
Christianity 152 


On the Proof of Christ's Authority as Head over his Church . 182 


On the Evidence of Prophecy, as apphed to the Proof of 

Doctrines 208 


On the Evidence of Prophecy, as apphed to the Proof of 

Doctrines — (continued) 231 


Jewish Opinions respecting the future Christ 254 


ITie Proof by which the Abrogation of the Mosaic Covenant 

was demonstrated 278 




The Proof by which the Institution of the Gospel Covenant 

was demonstrated — (conclusion) 296 


On the Causes of the Propagation of Christianity among the 

Heathen 323 


On the Credibility of the Facts related in the New Testa- 
ment 389 


m^ - ^i 



If we examine attentively the facts related in the 
New Testament, we cannot fail to observe, that if 
they really happened, they must have been generally 
known and believed at Jerusalem and elsewhere, in 
the age to which they are ascribed. A difference of 
opinion may have prevailed, as to the real author of C<i 
the miracles, or as to the purpose for which they were 
wrought; but if we suppose any doubts to have 
existed generally among the people of Judaea, as to 
the reality of the transactions themselves, this would 
be a legitimate reason for questioning the truth of 
the history ; inasmuch as it would entirely destroy 
its credit, were we to suppose that the knowledge 
of it was confined, to the immediate followers of 

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/ Accordingly, upon opening the volume, one of the 
most striking features which it offers, is the absence 
of all controversy about the facts related in it. In 
no part of it, do the writers enter upon any argument, 
to show the truth of their statements. These are 
assumed, as relating to events which were notorious 
and familiarly known. It is plain, that if the history 
be true, such must necessarily have been the case. 
Any attempt to prove the facts, would have been a 
ground of suspicion ; while, on the other hand, the 
absence of all anxiety, on the part of any one of the 
writers, about the credibility of their story, consider- 
ing what that story is, affords a negative evidence of 
authenticity, stronger, perhaps, than any positive 
testimony, that could have been devised. Connect- 
ing this evidence with the rapid success of Christ- 
ianity in the world, it amounts almost to a moral 

This part of the subject, I shall have occasion to 
examine more at length, hereafter ; but in the mean 
time, I shall take that for granted, which the narra- 
tive assumes ; and suppose the belief of the facts, by 
the Jews, to be conceded. It is plain that in the time 
of the Apostles, the inquiry was confined to an e.r- 
planation of the facts : How did they happen ? For 
what end ? By what power or authority ? 

The Jews, in general, appear to have accounted for 
the miracles, on the supposition of spiritual agency. 
It is probable, that some may have ascribed them to 
forbidden arts ; others, it may be, to fraud and collu- 


sioii ; but there is no indication, leading us to 
suppose that the facts themselves were called in 
question by any party. Time however has effected 
a wide change in this part of the argument. No 
one, in the present day, who believes the facts 
related in the New Testament, is found to doubt 
the divine authority by which they were wrought. 
This is supposed to follow, by necessary conse- 
quence, if the history be true. Accordingly when we 
consult the works of Lardner, or Michaelis, or Paley, 
or of any of the more popular writers upon the 
Evidences, we find that the whole of the reason- 
ing, is directed to the proof of the genuineness of 
the four Gospels, and the credibility of the writers. 
The question whether, if the events described really 
happened, any other explanation may be offered, is 
never so much as raised. If in the present day a writer 
were to enter upon a formal dissertation, to prove 
that the miracles wrought by Christ, were not the 
effect of magical arts, nor of diabolical agency, it 
is probable that the reader would only smile at his 
simplicity. Either they were the work of a divine 
authority, or the whole was the effect of mere fraud 
and delusion : no middle hypothesis is now ever en- 
tertained. If Christ performed the actions ascribed 
to him by his disciples, the religion which he preached 
was divine ; if not, not. 

But upon turning to the reasoning of St. Paul and 
the other Apostles, as exhibited in the Acts and 
Epistles, we shall find that instead of ending here, in 



their hands, the discussion only begins at this point. 
On Avhat proof do they rest the argument? Is it 
on the M'onderful actions ascribed to Christ, and the 
impossibility of accounting for them, except on the 
I supposition of his divine authority ? So far from 
it, they scarcely allude to his miracles at all ; and 
never in the way of proof, to show that what he said 
was to be believed, as if from God. This is pointedly 
illustrated by Paley, who has written a chapter on 
purpose to explain the probable reason of so great a 
peculiarity. It is plain that St. Peter had been pre- 
sent at many miracles wrought by Christ; and in 
the Acts, many are related as having been performed 
by himself. Yet out of six speeches attributed to 
him in this last writing, in two of them only, is re- 
ference made to the miracles of Christ ; and never 
but once does he refer to his own miraculous powers. 
The speech of Stephen contains no reference to 
miracles, though it is said of him by St. Luke that 
he did great wonders and miracles in his own 

Again, though various miraculous actions are at- 
tributed to St. Paul, at many of which the historian 
himself was present, yet in the several addresses 
which are given, as having been spoken by him, the 
appeals, cither to his own miracles, or to any miracles 
at all, are rare and only incidental. In the thirteen 
letters which he wrote, there are only three indu- 
bitable references to the miracles which he wroucfht ; 
and to the miracles wrought by Christ himself, 


there are in his Epistles no direct allusions what- 

The circumstance here adverted to, is explained 
by Paley, on the ground that the truth of the facts 
was notorious. " The silence of the Apostles," says 
he, " in this view of the case, is a proof, not that the 
miracles were not believed, but that the truth of 
them was a thing admitted." This supposition ex- 
plains, no doubt, why the Apostles did not enter 
into arguments, to prove that the facts really hap- 
pened : that would certainly have been superfluous, to 
persons who had been witnesses of their truth : but 
it does not explain why, having to prove, not the 
facts themselves, but the divine authority of the re- 
ligion which they preached, they did not distinctly 
allege those facts in their argument, if it rested in 
their minds, as it now does in ours, on that particu- 
lar evidence. The data of a proposition may often 
be tacitly assumed, but not the proofs; this would 
turn the argument into a mere assertion. Now it is 
as proofs, and not simply as historical facts, that we 
are at present considering the miracles. 

We see that the topic, which in modern ex- 
positions of the evidences of Christianity, is ex- 
clusively considered, the Apostles either assume, 
or only dwell upon incidentally. But then, as if to 
balance the scale, we find the argument on which 
the Apostles rested their proof, is passed over with 
as little notice, by writers in the present day. In 
the speeches put into the mouths of the Apostles, 



in the Acts, as well as in the Epistles which have 
come do^^^l to us, jthe single authority to which 
they appeal, is the Old Testament. AVhatever 
be the immediate subject of their reasoning: 
whether it be the divinity of Christ, or his propitia- 
tion, or his exaltation as head over his Church, or 
the calling of the Gentiles, or the rejection of the 
Jews, or more generally, the truth of the tidings 
which they proclaim: be the subject of their preaching 
what it may, the storehouse, from which they draw 
their proofs, is the " Law and the Prophets." With 
very little limitation, the same remark will apply to 
our Saviour's own teaching. 

It is very common, however, to see it stated in 
books, and still more to hear in conversation, that 
the proof of the Old Testament now rests on the 
authority of the New. We meet with this opinion 
in books written expressly on the Evidences; but 
even when the position is not formally laid down, it is 
always tacitly assumed. In Paley, for example, Pro- 
phecy is counted only among the "auxiliary evidences" 
of Christianity ; and the whole subject is discussed in a 
single chapter, in which one prophecy only is referred 
to, and dismissed immediately without any comment. 

Now it is not to be supposed that the Apostles 
did not understand the real grounds, on which the 
truths, which they were commissioned to preach, had 
been placed by God. It is much more likely, that 
we, in the present day, have committed a mis- 
take, in passing over so lightly, an authority, on 


which they reposed so confidently ; and not only so 
confidently, but, as the event has declared, so success- 
fully. A closer examination of the argument however, 
will, I think, satisfy us, that neither the one nor the 
other made any mistake in the reasoning ; but that 
the question which we, in the present day, have to 
consider, instead of being the same question which was 
argued 1800 years ago, is one prodigiously more 
easy of solution. 

However difficult it may be, to speculate upon 
events beforehand, it is often quite easy to specify 
the causes from which they proceeded, after they 
have happened. It requires no extraordinary 
sagacity in an historian to discern, that the conquest 
of Constantinople by the Turks, was one main cause 
of the revival of literature in Europe ; and that this 
last, was that which really produced the reforma- 
tion of religion, in the fifteenth century ; but a per- 
son who should have foreseen these results when Con- 
stantinople fell, would have exhibited a degree of 
penetration that would have seemed miraculous. Just 
so it is in the case before us. It is not difficult for us, 
who witness the establishment of Christianity in the 
world, and observe the effects which have followed 
from the facts which we read in the New Testament, 
to demonstrate the end, for which they were exhi- 
bited, and the authority, from which they must have 
proceeded ; but this proof was quite another thing in 
the days of the Apostles ; when that which they pro- 
claimed, and which we now witness and experience. 


must have been accounted by many, as no better 
than a dream. They had to assign the cause and 
intention of the miracles, before the event ; and, 
moreover, to bring mankind to adopt their explana- 
tion, at a time when its truth was altogether a 
matter of conjecture. A very little reflection will 
show us, that the task which was thus imposed 
upon the first preachers of Christianity, was not 
only more difficult than ours : it was totally and 
absolutely different ; it belonged to a different de- 
partment of reasoning; and from the necessity of 
things, required an entirely different mode of proof. 
This would seem to be plain upon the mere enun- 
ciation of the case ; but an example will, perhaps,^ 
assist us to understand the logical difference of the 
two arguments. 

The circulation of the blood is now a well-known 
and established fact, in the science of the human 
frame ; and it is easy for an anatomist to demonstrate 
the cause on which it depends ; to point out, that is, 
the contrivance, by which this important function is 
performed. But at a time when the phenomena were 
unknown and unsuspected, the genius of Harvey 
was able, by reflection upon the parts, as they lay 
in an inanimate mass before him, to deduce the 
fact, a prim'i, from the mere inspection of the cavi- 
ties and ventricles of the heart. This, we see, was 
ari^uing, not from effects to causes^ but from causes 
to (fects : a ])rocess of reasoning whicli, in the case 
of contiuijeut events, is next to impossible ; but 


which, even in physical events, where effects follow 
from causes with stated and undeviating certainty, 
is so difficult and uncertain, that the instance here 
mentioned is said to be the only one, of any 
discovery in experimental science having been so 

This example exactly illustrates the nature of the 
reasoning in the case of Christianity, before and 
after its establishment. Assuming the truth of the 
facts related in the New Testament: — and supposing 
the question to be only as to the authority by which 
the miracles were wrought, and the end for which, on 
a supposition of their divine authority, the regular 
course of nature had been suspended: — the commonest 
powers of reasoning can now assign the answer. The 
establishment among mankind, of those precise truths 
which he, who worked the miracles, declared that he 
was sent into the world to proclaim ; the disappear- 
ance of idolatry, from all the more civilized portions 
of the globe ; the beneficent effects, which have fol- 
lowed directly out of the belief of mankind in the 
facts under consideration; — these point at once to the 
solution. No one who believes in the providential 
character of the facts, will raise a doubt upon the 
question ; as no one in the present day, who believes 
in the facts themselves, will ascribe them to any 
other than divine power. 

In how different a form, did the truth present itself 
to the understanding of mankind, in the days of the 
Apostles ! When we reason upon the miracles, we 


assume that our hearers are acquainted with the lead- 
ing principles of natural philosophy ; that they would 
be affronted if we supposed them to believe in the 
reality of magical and forbidden arts ; or in the 
power of any subordinate spirits, to control the 
laws, either of the physical or moral government of 
the world. We take for granted that they are 
imbued with a sense of the great truths of natural 
religion ; of the unity and attributes of God ; of his 
truth and justice, no less than of his infinite power. 
Reverse these assumptions, and the argument from 
miracles becomes a rope of sand in our hands. 
This, however, is precisely what we must do : we 
must assume just the contrary of every one of the 
conditions I have mentioned, if we mean to place 
ourselves in the position of the Apostles, and of those 
with whom they had to reason. 

" But even supposing this difficulty to have been 
overcome ; and that their hearers had conceded that 
no power not divine could have been the author of 
the works ascribed to Christ : yet how improbable 
an explanation of the facts, must that event which 
we now witness with our eyes, have seemed to man- 
kind, at the time when it was first proposed to their 
belief! An interpretation more incredible, than that 
the existing religions of mankind were thenceforth 
to be abolished, by divine authority, and that the 
worship of one, who in the eyes of men had seemed ^ 
only a humble Jew, , was to be substituted in tlreir 
place — could not easily have been put upon any 


events ; nor one less likely to have been embraced 
by mankind, if it had rested only on the opinion of 
the Apostles ; or on any reasoning, built by them, 
merely upon the wonderful character of the facts : — 
for no facts could be so wonderful, as their explana- 
tion would, in such a case, have seemed. It is not ) 
without an effort of the understanding even in the 

present day, when Christianity is established, that we 
can appreciate the true character of this great event ; 
but viewed in the abstract, and before it came to 
pass, no language can convey a full statement of its 
antecedent improbability. 

As this proposition lies at the bottom of the argu- 
ment, which I propose to discuss in the following 
Lectures, it is important that the difference between 
the proof of Christianity, as the question now stands 
and as it stood in the days of the Apostles, should 
be, not merely admitted as a fact, but exactly under- 
stood. Before I proceed, therefore, to examine the 
evidence on which the Apostles rested their reason- 
ing, it will be expedient to say a few words, respect- 
ing the ground, upon which the truth of their con- 
clusions is commonly placed in the present day. 

In every work with which I am acquainted upon 
the Evidences of Christianity, its divine authority 
is considered to rest immediately upon the mi- 
racles. Such a way of speaking is sufficiently 
correct for popular use ; but in strictness of reason- 
ing, the miracles are merely the premises of the 
argument and not the proofs. In the New Testa- 



ment itself, they are always so adduced. They are 
there spoken of as " signs ;" as visible demonstrations 
of God's mind, leading mankind to expect that the 
things which he had promised, were about to be ful- 
filled ; but not as the antecedent causes, of the things 
which should come to pass, nor as being at all con- 
nected with them by any moral or physical depend- 
ence. " The times of man's ignorance," St. Paul 
tells the Athenians, " God had in past times winked 
at ; but now commandeth all men every where to 
repent. Because he hath appointed a day, in the 
which he will judge the world in righteousness by 
that man whom he hath ordained ; whereof he hath 
given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised 
him from the dead." 

Assuming, now, all this to be true: — that God 
had forbidden mankind to worship idols of stone, 
and that thenceforth they were all commanded to 
acknowledge him in the way which the Apostles 
preached : — for that he would no longer wink at the 
ignorance and wickedness of his creatures, but called 
them every where to repent, and to believe in him 
whom God had sent into the world and raised from 
the dead, as a sign or assurance to mankind of his 
coming again to judge all the children of men : — 
assuming, I say, all this to be true, yet it was not 
matter which St. Paul could prove by general reason- 
ing; as little could he prove it on oath, or by offer- 
ing to submit himself to any test to which his sin- 
cerity could be subjected. Humanly s})eaking, it 


could be determined no otherwise than by the event. 
If God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead, as a 
sign or assurance to mankind of all these things 
being true : in that case, the word, which God had 
declared by the mouth of the Apostles, would come 
to pass ; if not, not. The language of Gamaliel, as 
recorded in the fifth chapter of the Acts, was not 
only the language of humanity, but of the plainest 
good sense. " Refrain from these men, and let them 
alone ; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it 
will come to nought ; but if it be of God, ye cannot 
overthrow it." 

That such was the view taken of the miracles by 
the Apostles, might be shown from abundance of 
other passages ; but it was also the true and logical 
view, as will readily appear if we examine any po- 
pular work upon the Evidences. For example : — in 
the work of Paley the whole argument is made to 
rest upon two propositions : first, " That there is f 
satisfactory evidence that many professinc/ to be original 
witnesses of the Christian miracles, passed their lives in 
dangers, labotcrs, and sufferings, voluntarily tcndergone 
in attestation of the accounts which they have delivered;'''' 
and secondly, " That there is not satisfactory evidence 
that persons pretending to be original witnesses of any 
other similar miracles, have acted in the same manner, 
in attestation of the accounts which they have de- 

Now assuming this to be proved, yet it is plain 
that these propositions, are merely the data of the 



argument : — the real proof of the conclusion which 
he draws, is built, not upon the miracles themselves, 
but upon the effects which they are supposed to have 
produced ; that is, upon the event, of M'hich they were 
the stated signs, having come to pass. That the case 
is so, may easily be shown, by merely reversing the 
hypothesis of the argument. The evidence of the 
above propositions will be the same, whether we 
suppose the labours of the Apostles to have been 
crowned with success or to have miscarried ; but it 
is plain, that on the last supposition, the conclusion, 
now built upon the miracles, will fall to the ground. 
Whatever explanation of the facts might be pro- 
posed, it would be certain that the Apostles had 
mistaken their true meaning and intention, however 
great the labours, and dangers, and sufferings which 
they underwent, in confirmation of the accounts, 
which they delivered. 

We see, then, what the proof is, on which the pre- 
sent belief of mankind, in the divine authority of the 
miracles of Christ, is founded. It is not on the won- 
derfulness of the actions which he performed, that this 
belief ultimately rests ; nor in the purity of the pre- 
cepts which he delivered ; nor on the reasonableness 
of the doctrines which he preached ; nor on the testi- 
mony of the witnesses whom he left behind, to all 
that he had said and done : All this is true, and may 
be proved ; but all this is not enough : — that which 
the proof now rests upon, and without whicli the 
whole edifice would crumble to the ground, is the sue- 


cess of his religion. It is upon the fact that, agreeably 
to the declarations of God's purposes, as proclaimed 
by the Apostles, idolatry has been subverted ; and a 
form of religion substituted in its place, which is cer- 
tainly composed (whatever may be our opinion of it 
in other respects) of the self-same verities which he 
who worked, and they who attested the miracles, 
declared from the beginning that they were com- ) 
manded to make known. 

Explain the miracles themselves as we please, the ^ 
establishment of Christianity cannot have been the effect \ 
of collusion ; still less of magical arts, qr^of the influ- 
ence of subordinate agents of any kind, either human / 
or spiritual. Any such supposition is stamped with 
absurdity on the very face of it. It would imply, not 
that God had permitted a temporary invasion of the 
laws of his material creation, but that he had thrown 
the reins of government from his hands. Neither 
does it seem to me, that we should much improve 
the matter, by supposing the event to have been 
the effect of chance. Such an hypothesis does 
not indeed involve an absurdity; but it is ex- 
cluded in this case, not only by the character of the 
event, but by the history. If the establishment of 
Christianity was the chance result of promiscuous 
causes, then were the solemn declarations of the 
Apostles, of the constraining force which was upon 
them to announce the Gospel to mankind, nothing 
more than the effects of delusion ; the mere waking 
dreams, real or pretended, of a few heated imagina- 


tions. But docs experience teach us to believe it 
credible, that on such a supposition their solemn 
declarations would have come true ? We know no 
instance of any event in history, even of tlie com- 
monest kind, which madmen had foretold, having 
come to pass ; much less such an event, as the rise 
and establishment in the world, of a new system of 
religious belief, to consist of principles and doctrines, 
both of faith and practice, each of which had be- 
forehand, point by point, been formally specified 
and explained. 

But if the establishment of Christianity be a part 
of the evidence, on which the belief of its divine 
authority now stands, — and so important a part, that 
if it were removed the chain of proof would fall to 
pieces in our hands, — how, it is obvious to ask, are 
we to account for its successful propagation ? The 
more improbable we suppose the doctrines of which 
it consists, so much the stronger the evidence re- 
quired ; the more incredible the event may have 
seemed, before it happened, the greater must 
have been the difficulty, of bringing mankind to 
entertain that antecedent belief, on which its success 
was founded. For if a large portion of mankind had 
/ not been persuaded of the divine authority of the 
Gospel befm^e it was established, it would seem im- 
possible to understand, how it could have been esta- 
blished at all. 
/ The Apostles then must necessarily have been 
\ provided with evidence of s<mie sort, good or bad. 


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over and above the facts which are preserved in the ^t,^^ <c-J 
New Testament ; and that evidence, as we have seen, 'Ir^^S^^ 
must have rested upon grounds, entirely different from ^^tji^*^ 
any of the data, on which the reasoning in the present iio^~f^ 
day depends. It must also have been evidence apjja- ^d^bldt 
rently of a very irresistible as well as peculiar kind ', % ' "?S 
as the proposition to be proved, was one much more 
difficult to demonstrate, than that which the argu- ) 
ment now requires. For when we speak of Chris- 
tianity, we speak of a fact, and not of a mere probable 
opinion ; of a dispensation which we say God has 
established, and under which we actually live. There 
is no question here about the thing itself, but only 
about the true explanation of it. But in the time of 
the Apostles, the thing itself was the very point 
which it was required to prove. The duty imposed 
upon them, was to convince mankind beforehand of 
the intention of God ; the intention, be it observed, 
of establishing in the world a new system of religious 
belief; and one, so remote from common apprehen- 
sion, that many persons cannot believe it, even now 
that it has become the faith of every civilized coun- 
try in the world., I need say no more to shew the 
peculiar nature, as well as the superior difficulty of 
the task which was placed upon the Apostles ; the 
only question would seem to be, as to the means by 
which they were enabled to accomplish it. 

In a summary way this question is easily answered. 
We have only to take up the Acts, or read any one 
of St. Paul's Epistles, and we shall immediately see, 



that the proof employed by the Apostles, to demon- 
strate the divine authority, of the actions and in- 
structions of the Founder of Christianity, was uni- 

>^ formly taken from the Old Testament. This, as I 
have before observed, was the document to which 

' they appealed ; and, as far as we have the means of 
judging, this was the evidence by which mankind 
were originally converted.' 

; On the other hand, when we examine the ground, 
upon which the proof of the divine authority of the 
Christian miracles now depends, we see that it was 
ground which, for obvious reasons, it was impossible 
for the Apostles to occupy. Accordingly that which 
I shall endeavour to show in these Lectures, is 
the following proposition : — namely, that the place 
which the actual establishment of Christianity now 
holds in the argument, in the time of the Apostles 
was supplied by the Old Testament. — I shall not 
confine myself to the proof of this proposition, as 
a mere historical fact; but I shall endeavour to 
explain the reasons, on which the necessity of a 
preparatory dispensation was founded. In the dis- 
cussion of these reasons, I shall be obliged to touch 
upon many topics, j)liilosophical and historical as 
well as theological, which have not heretofore been 
considered in connection with the Evidences of 
Christianity; but in the result I hope to be able 
to demonstrate, that without the preceding belief of 
mankind in the Jewish, or in some scheme of pro- 
phecy, the difficulties wliich tlio Apostles had to 


contend with, would have been insurmountable. I > 
shall show that their success, if not impossible, (as ' 
my own opinion would incline me to believe,) would 
at least have been, except on this hypothesis, in- 
explicable, on any known and acknowledged prin- 
ciples of the human mind. j 

c 2 



We have seen the important change which circum- 
stances liave introduced into the Evidences of Chris- 
tianity, since the time when it was first published ; 
and that the reasoning on which the proof now de- 
pends, was not and could not be employed by the 
Apostles. Let us then dismiss this reasoning from 
our minds, and suppose ourselves to be examining 
the evidence, not of an old established religion, but 
of one offered for the first time to our consideration. 
With this view the simplest course will be, to put 
aside, for a time, the particular case of Christianity, 
and to look at the subject in the abstract. 

Suppose then a miracle to happen in the present 
day, how could we demonstrate that it was wrought 
by God ? Or, supposing a company of men, in the 
present day, to have received, in the same manner 
as the Apostles, a commission from God, to spread 


abroad the tidings of a revelation from heaven : 
what is the evidence which they would be required 
to produce ? 

Let us begin with answering the first of these 
questions : assuming all the facts of the case — that a 
miracle had been publicly and notoriously wrought — 
and that no question was raised about the credibility 
of the witnesses : — how could they demonstrate, that 
it was the effect of a divine interposition ? To do 
this, what is it that they must prove ? 

A belief in the permanency of the laws of nature 
seems to be so inseparable from the human mind, 
that some metaphysicians have considered it as an 
original principle in our nature. But in fact it is 
nothing more than a necessary conclusion of reason ; 
and one, which is identical with the well-known 
maxim, that whatever is, will continue to exist in the 
same state — a body in motion to persevere in a state 
of motion — a body at rest to remain in a state of rest 
— until the presence or withdrawal of some cause, to 
interrupt the existing state of things. This truth is 
laid down by Newton, as is well known, among the 
axioms upon which he has explained the system of 
the universe. 

Now as the supposition of a miracle, directly con- 
tradicts this principle of our nature or our reason, 
call it which you will, we see at once what truth it is, 
which really lies at the bottom of that incredulity, with 
which every sensible man listens to stories pretending 
to be miraculous ; namely, the truth just mentioned, 


that the course of nature will continue without inter- 
ruption, until the presence or withdrawal of some 
cause to interrupt the existing state of things : an 
inference which, though referred by metaphysicians 
to an axiom of philosophy, might just as pro- 
perly be called a maxim of common sense. Quid- 
^ quid oritur^ says Cicero, qualecunqice est, caiisam 
) habeat a naturd necesse est : ut etiamsi 'prceter consue- 
\ ttidinem extiterit, prceter naturam tamen, non potest 
K existere. Causam igitur investigato in re nova et 
\ admirabili, si potes ; si nullam reperies, illud tamen 
exploratum habeto, nihil fieri potuisse sine causa. I 
shall not enlarge upon this point, because it is 
one, 1 imagine, on which all reasonable men, 
whether philosophers or not, are practically agreed. 
That which Cicero here applies to heathen omens 
and prodigies, is applicable to every fact pretending 
to be miraculous : " In every new and surprising 
phenomenon, inquire into the cause ; and even if 
you should discover none, yet be certain that no fact 
can have happened without a cause ; and that this 
cause, even though it may seem contrary to ex- 
perience, yet cannot really be contrary to the laws 
of nature." 

To go back then to the case of an asserted 
miracle, as just now stated : the question we see, is 
as to the sufficient cause. Demonstrate this, and 
the mere wonderfulness of the fact, has no weight 
whatever in the argument. Neither does it matter 
what the cause may be ; if we are sure of its reality 


the most miraculous effect may be just as credible, \ 
as the commonest occurrence which falls under the 
notice of our senses. 

To take an example : the disappearance of the / y/ 
moon from our solar system, would justly be deemed i 
as improbable an event as could be mentioned 
Nevertheless, if it had been predicted by Sir Isaac 
Newton as one which, from astronomical calculations 
not liable to error, would necessarily take place in a 
certain stated year ; that is to say, supposing him to_^ 
have demonstrated the sufficient cause of this event, 
as clearly as he has demonstrated the law of nature, 
by which the heavenly bodies are now retained in 
their orbits : it would not be deemed incredible. On 
the contrary, every one who understood the reason- 
ing, and was satisfied of the correctness of the prin- 
ciples, on which the calculations were grounded, 
would confidently expect them to be verified. ; 
Moreover, when the event did happen, he would 
have no doubt in his mind, that the causes of it 
were the same, as had been previously laid down. 

As the present is a question in religion, and not 
in natural philosophy, let us then correct the words 
of Cicero ; and when he says, that whatever happens, 
must have its cause " in nature," let us substitute 
another term in the place of nature, and say that 
whatever happens must have its cause in the ' will 
of God;' (which I presume to be the real meaning of 
the word) and we shall at once have an exact idea, of 
what it is that we have to do, when we endeavour 


to prove that a fact was miraculous. If the course 
of nature is founded upon the will of God, a miracle 
implies a change in this will. This is the cause which 
we have to demonstrate. Take any case, then, and 
reason upon it, as in the example I just now proposed. 
Suppose that we could demonstrate, « priori^ not 
the mere possibility of this or that design being in the 
mind of God ; but the actual y«c< of some fixed design 
on his part, the consequence of which, whatever 
it was, would necessarily and inevitably entail, pro 
hac vice, a deviation from the course of nature ; so 
that a large number of persons knew beforehand, 
and were daily expecting, a divine dispensation which 
involved the supposition of miracles of some sort : it 
is plain that in this case, mankind would not, anv 
more than in the case I just now spoke of, dispute 
about the credibility of the miracles, merely because 
they were wonderful, and implied a suspension of the 
laws of nature ; nor, supposing them to have hap- 
pened, would they dispute about the cause. The 
antecedent knowledge and expectation of mankind, 
would silence all objections drawn from mere general 
reasoning. It would do so, as I showed, when the 
question related to matters pertaining to natural 
philosophy ; and there can be no reason for suppos- 
ing, that it would not do the same in a matter con- 
nected with religion. 

It is evident that in the above cases, the difficulty 
of the suj>position consists, in the apparent impossi- 
bility of conceiving such an antecedent knowledge of 


God's designs, as the argument requires. If we 
were supposing an opinion built only upon the un- 
substantial fancies of mankind, and not on any assign- 
able proof: whatever might have been the nature of 
the previous expectation, it never would have been 
realized. This is certain: nevertheless, assuming such 
a case to be possible, if we could prove the fact of 
a previous expectation, on the part of large numbers 
of mankind, of some miraculous dispensation, we / 
should be at no loss, in case that expectation was \ 
fulfilled, to understand the reasons on which their / 
subsequent belief was founded. The only difficulty \ 
would be, how to account for the suj^posed previous / 

In the preceding remarks I have had in view 
the case of a single miracle ; we now come to the 
second case which I proposed for consideration : 
that of a revelation — which is also a miracle indeed, 
but of a peculiar and more comprehensive kind. Here 
we have to prove, not simply that a fact was the 
immediate act of God ; but to show that the purpose 
of it was to make an authoritative declaration to 
mankind of certain stated truths. It is easy to sup- 
pose a case, where no doubt might exist as to the 
divine aidliwity of the miracle, but in which it would 
be impossible to offer any conjecture, as to the end 
for which it was wrought. 

Let us then assume this last to have been com- 
municated, by a divine illumination, to the minds of 
twelve, or any stated number of individuals: In 


what way, could they convey the supernatural . con- 
viction of their own minds, to the understanding 
of others? Here a moral reason is alleged for 
a fact purely physical ; there is therefore no natural 
connection between the premises and conclusion. 
Neither is it the agency of God, which is in question 
— that is assumed ; but it is the purpose in God's 
mind; and this, while that purpose is a matter only in 
speculation; something not actually carried into effect, 
but to be executed hereafter. We are not speaking 
of the proof of facts, but of propositions, M'hich I 
am supposing to be new to the apprehension of 
mankind, and merely propounded for their accept- 
ance. Admit all the facts of the case ; assume the 
divine authority of the proposed truths ; still it may 
be asked, What legitimate evidence can be suggested, 
by which those who were commissioned to spread 
the knowledge of them abroad throughout the world, 
could certainly show of such facts, however confessedly 
miraculous, that the demonstration of those particu- 
lar truths, was the object for which they had been 
exhibited ? 

It is evident that in proportion as the truths are 
supposed to be, in themselves, more or less easy of 
belief, more or less conformable to our existing no- 
tions of God and of his government, the proof 
required will be more or less strong. If we assume 
the doctrines propounded to be without any ante- 
cedent probability ; to be startling and unexpected, 
and to transcend anv thino^ that human reason would 


have presumed : the evidence must be proportioiiably 
weighty. If on the other hand, we suppose nothing 
more to be in question, than an authoritative publica- 
tion of opinion and notions, which had already been 
anticipated in the traditional belief of the vulgar, or 
the reasonings of the learned : lighter proofs will 
satisfy the conditions of the argument. Let us then 
take the least improbable case that can be stated : 
that which Paley has chosen, in his refutation of 

The belief of mankind in the hope of another 
life, however derived, has prevailed so extensively 
in all ages and nations, that it would seem to have 
its root in some original principle of the human mind. 
Nisi cognitum coinprehensumque animis haberemus, non 
tarn stabilis opinio permaneret^ nee confirmaretur diii- 
turnitate temporis, nee una eum scBeulis atatibusque 
hominum inveterm'e potuisset. The reason of this 
widely-spread conviction, this sceeulonmi quasi au- 
gurium futiiroi'um, as Cicero elsewhere terms it, is 
not the question; but only the fact of its existence. 
Another life, however, being supposed, it would 
seem to be not unnatural for mankind to infer, from 
the tendencies of virtue and vice, to produce happi- 
ness or misery in the world which we now live in, 
that in the next, the same principle will be more 
perfectly developed ; that those manifold exceptions 
to the rule, observable in the fortunes of mankind 
here below, will hereafter be rectified, and all present 
inequalities made even. 


That there is nothing incredible in this doctrine, 
nothing in it, contrary to the common sense and 
reason of mankind, seems to be indisputable. And 
it will not, I tliink, be denied, that supposing it to be 
true (which it might be, and yet we not know it) 
the authoritative publication of its truth, on the 
part of God, would afford a motive and reason suf- 
ficient to constitute the hypothesis of a revelation. 
The language of antiquity on the subject will cer- 
tainly prove so much. There is a well-known 
passage in the Alcibiades, in which Socrates is made 
to intimate, not only his belief of a future life, but 
his expectation that some future divine communi- 
cation will, in process of time, be made to mankind 
respecting it. 

Now an opinion put into the mouth of Socrates, 
and that by Plato, must not be treated as incredible 
and absurd. It cannot with any decency be other- 
wise regarded, than as a strong testimony to show, 
that there is no philosophical improbability in the 
hypothesis of a revelation. Socrates was no 
dreamer ; and neither he nor Plato had any thing, 
except the abstract probability of the hypothesis, to 
create the expectation of such an event, in their 

But let us for a moment put the case that Socrates 
had pretended to be that messenger whom he speaks 
of; that Scuic Ttc, whose fiiture apj)earance in the 
world, he did not deem au unreasonable hope. We 
will also suppose certain facts to have been alleged, 


ill proof of his divine commission ; and the question 
to have been raised, after his death, as to the true 
character of his pretensions. 

Under these circumstances, it is probable his fol- 
lowers would have appealed to the doctrines which 
he taught; and more particularly, perhaps, to this 
great doctrine of a future life. " Suppose the world 
we live in to have had a Creator," they might have 
said ; " suppose a part of the creation to have received 
faculties from their Maker, by which they are 
capable of rendering a moral obedience to his will, 
and of voluntarily pursuing any end for which he 
has designed them ; suppose the Creator to intend 
for these, his rational and accountable agents, a 
second state of existence, in which their situation 
will be regulated by their behaviour in the first state ; 
suppose it to be of the utmost importance to the 
subjects of this dispensation, to know what is intended 
for them: suppose, nevertheless, almost. the whole ,4 
race, either by the imperfection or their fad^ulties^ 
or the misfortune of their situation, to want this 
knowledge : — these," they might have argued, " must 
be admitted to be j^robable suppositions, and may 
be true ones ; and in this last case, was not a reve- 
lation to be expected at the hand of a wise and 
beneficent Being ? Suppose him to design for 
mankind a future state, can you be surprised that 
he should acquaint them with it?" 

This is the reasoning employed by Paley against 
Hume ; and I am now supposing it to have been 


employed in the imaginary case, of the scene of the 
argument being at Athens, as just stated. We see 
at once what would have been the answer. 

It would have been said, "' We are inquiring, 
whether certain stated doctrines, are to be received 
as of divine authority : and instead of proving the 
fact, you are only showing, that the supposition is not 
absurd or incredible. The data from which you have 
drawn your conclusion, are not grounded upon any 
direct proofs of a design, on the part of God, to make 
a revelation of his will ; but upon a general consi- 
deration of God's attributes on the one hand, and of 
the condition of human nature on the other. These 
are reasons which were just as true in the time of 
Deucalion, or in the age of Homer, as when Socrates 
was born. No change has taken place, that we are 
able to detect, in the intervening periods, as to the posi- 
tion of mankind, with respect to the present question; 
nor, if we may trust to our experience, in the rules 
of God's moral government. Great indeed is the 
ignorance which prevails in the world, as to the true 
nature of God, and of the worship which ought to be 
paid to him ; great is the need we have of some 
divine instructor, in case God's human creation, are 
to be held responsible in another life, for all the 
follies and immoralities they are guilty of, in this : 
but all this was as certain a thousand years ago, as it 
is now. Mankind are not more ignorant or more 
wicked, than in other ages of the world ; why then 
was the ])lessing of a revelation so long kept back ? 


The more clear you consider the necessity of a re- 
velation, on the supposition of a future state of 
rewards and punishments being true, the stronger 
surely the presumption becomes, of the doctrine not 
being true, from the fact of so many millions of 
human beings, having been permitted to live and die 
in every age of the world, in ignorance of a dis- 
pensation, which if true, it would so deeply have 
concerned them to have known." 

I see not how this reasoning was to have been met 
by speculative assumptions of any kind, even sup- 
posing the discussion to have regarded only the 
general probability of some revelation. But in the 
case, where we suppose the question to be, the divine 
authority of a certain stated revelation, one, asserted 
to have been actually made: here the inquiry is 
plainly into a matter of fact ; and in these circum- 
stances, the rules of reasoning require that specula- 
tive arguments should be excluded from the evidence. 
It is the interposition of some reasons, which have 
not always been in actual operation ; of some change 
in the position of mankind, or in the divine eco- 
nomy of the world, calling for a corresponding 
change, in the knowledge possessed by mankind, of 
their relation to God, which, in this case, we have to 
demonstrate ; a change not inferred after the event 
by probable guesses, but which was, or might have 
been, known beforehand, from principles of reasoning, 
such as would explain the actual expectation, on the 

) ./- 


part of mankind, of some divine communication being 
about to be made to them. 

This, or something like this, is the only kind of 
evidence which I am able to conceive, on which the 
antecedent probability of any particular revelation 
could be demonstrated. So far is certain, that such 
an hypothesis as I have here indicated would re- 
move every difficulty. Had mankind, at the time 
when Socrates lived, been looking for the appearance 
of some divine ambassador: the question of the truth 
of his pretensions to such a character, would have 
been of easy determination. Where and what were 
his credentials ? If, in reply to this inquiry, he had 
been able, under the circumstances I have been 
stating, to perform such actions as have been ascribed 
to Christ, no one, I think, would have been sur- 
prised, if the same effects .had followed from his 

Let us then, for the sake of argument, put the 
case here supposed ; and imagine for a moment, that 
some such persuasion as we are speaking of, existed 
in the public mind, at the present time ; that there 
was among ourselves, a widely dispersed expectation, 
of some new dispensation of things about to arise, 
under which an important alteration would be pro- 
mulged to mankind, relating to the divine govern- 
ment. In what way, we suppose the knowledge of 
this intended dispensation to have been commu- 
nicated to mankind, is not material. In fact, it will 


not affect the argument, even if we suppose it to 
have no assignable foundation. I am at present only 
endeavouring to trace the effect which such an opinion, 
whether well or ill founded, would produce upon 
the disposition of men's minds. Let the expectation, 
if you please, be an opinion derived from mathema- 
tical calculations, such as men build upon, when they 
expect a comet to appear : or let it be only a strong 
persuasion, drawn from merely accidental data : let 
it be confined to the breasts of a few philoso- 
phers and learned men, or be entertained by the 
vulgar and unlearned alone : let the origin of it be 
viewed in every different light, some considering the 
reasons to be certain, and some only possible, and 
others regarding them as absurd : — take any suppo- 
sition we choose, yet have we only to put the case, 
that the opinion prevailed beforehand ; that it had \ 
been commonly talked about ; that mankind were 
gazing in expectation and looking to the event, some 
with earnest belief, others with doubt, or it may be 
even with ridicule ; all this will matter nothing in 
the result : — If the event should correspond with the 
popular expectation; if a revelation should be an- 
nounced : if facts, apparently miraculous, should be 
wrought in testimony of its truth : if thousands and 
ten thousands should ijamediately enrol themselves 
among its followers; and in the course of a few years, 
all nations and languages of mankind should acknow- 
ledge its divine authority: — such a case, if real, 



would be deemed demonstrative. Higher evidence 
to prove a revelation to be from God, cannot, 
perhaps be projiosed ; — at all events, mankind both 
learned and unlearned, would agree to think it cer- 

But it will of course be said, that the hypothesis 
which I have been framing, is a mere philosophical 
dream ; a case which could never, under any con- 
ceivable circumstances, have been realized. It pre- 
supposes a sort of knowledge, to which evidently 
the human understanding cannot possibly attain. 
For how, it may be asked, could mankind, under 
any circumstances whatever, know what were the 
intentions of God ? Mankind indeed are liable to de- 
lusions of all sorts ; and we may, therefore, conceive 
the case of such a delusion, as the expectation of a 
messenger from heaven ; and assuming such a delu- 
sion to exist, it is precisely that sort of delusion, 
which would be likely to realize itself. But it is 
plain, that the thoughts and the designs of God, are 
known only to himself; they could never have been 
divined beforehand, by the utmost stretch of the 
human understanding. Such an exjiectation as that 
just now supposed, could not have been built upon 
solid reasons of any sort, except we suppose, that 
the secret of his counsels had been revealed to man- 
kind, in some miraculous manner; a sup])osition, it 
may be thouglit, which would remove one difticnlty 
by the substitution of a greater. , But extravagant 


as the hypothesis which 1 have just stated, may 
seem, yet I hope to show, that it represents with 
perfect exactness the supposition, on which the belief 
of mankind in Christianity was founded. Their 
belief must have had some foundation, good or bad ; 
— I am simply proposing to show what that founda- 
tion was. This is a matter of historical fact, which 
may be capable of demonstration. The truth of 
Christianity is an entirely distinct question. Persons 
might differ upon that point, and yet agree in their 
account of the supposed causes, from which the 
belief of its truth originated. 

D -2 




State the case as we please, it is impossible to 
frame any hypothesis of divine revelation, such as 
that the denial of its truth, shall involve a disputant in 
a philosophical absurdity. And accordingly, provided 
he can demonstrate, that there is any philosophical ab- 
surdity, in the conclusions to bo established, he is at 
liberty to reject the proofs ; and would still be so, were 
we to double or treble their amount; because this 
amount can never be so great, as to justify us in be- 
lieving, that any facts could have God for their author, 
if thedeclared purpose of them, was confessedly adverse 
to human happiness, or subversive of any of the great 
principles, either of reason or morality. Therefore it 
is, that all writers of the })resent day, when proving 
the truth of Christianity, lay so much stress uj)on 
this part of the argument. Until it can be shown, 
that there is no suflicient reason for considerinof the 


hypothesis of its divine origin, to be absurd or incre- 
dible, it would be labour thrown away to prove the 
truth of the facts. 

But we have seen, that in the case of a new reli- 
gion, it is not enough to show that it contains 
nothing contrary to reason — nothing unworthy of ) 
God, or inconsistent with his attributes ; — it must 
be shown to be antecedently probable ; and so pro- j 
bable, as that the revelation of it was an event, which 
might actually be ea^pected. On the other hand, as n 
a revelation must be attended with miracles of some 
sort, it follows, that if we could show from reason or 
on any certain grounds of belief, that God, at some 
given period, would change his usual course of deal- 
ing with his creatures, — there would be nothing in- 
credible in the idea of any act or manifestation of 
power, necessarily consequent upon the end which 
we knew beforehand that God intended to Avork. 
The miracle, in such a case, would be merely the 
proof, that God had carried his foreknown purpose 
into execution. All that is presupposed in this 
reasoning, is the belief that a revelation of some kind 
was to be made. No one, who had entertained such 
a belief, would reject the revelation, if it was pro- 
posed, merely because it was attested by miracles ; 
or reject the miracles, merely because they were not 
such facts, as fall within the ordinary experience of 

It is plain that in the supposition here made, we 
have little or nothing to do, as I remarked in my 


last Lecture, with the cause from which the per- 
suasion may have arisen. I will suppose a total 
ignorance of that : the postulatum of the argument 
is the matter of fact : — that the event was cx'pectcd 
by mankind. 

There are some kinds of events depending so cer- 
tainly on pre-established causes, that the expectation 
of their happening would lead to no conclusion. But 
that is not the general character even of the com- 
monest historical facts ; and certainly a divine reve- 
lation is not a fact of that sort, but one quite beyond 
the province of any ordinary means of calculation. 
This then is the single limitation required. If the 
event in question be but of a kind, which no human 
wisdom could have conjectured, and which no com- 
bination of human art or power, could have brought 
about : its coming to pass, under such circumstances, 
agreeably to the explicit hope and belief of any large 
number of mankind, would in the case of a revelation 
demonstrate its divine authority. And it will be 
easy to show this, by taking the very cases, which 
Mr. Hume brings forward, as instances in which the 
proof of a divine interposition, would not be pos- 

" Suppose, " says he, " all authors in all languages 
agree, that, from the first of January 1600, there was 
a total darkness over the wliolc earth for eight days : 
suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary 
event is still strong and lively among the people: 
that all travellers who return from other countries 


bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the 
least variation or contradiction : — it is evident that 
our present philosophers, insteadof doubting the fact, 
ought to receive it as certain, and ought to search 
for the causes whence it might be derived. The 
decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an 
event rendered probable by so many analogies, that 
any phenomenon, which seems to have a tendency 
towards that catastrophe, comes within the reach of 
human testimony." In this passage we may ob- 
serve, that Hume grounds the credibility of the solu- 
tion he mentions, upon its antecedent probability ; 
and he prefaces the passage in the following words : 
" I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, 
when I say that a miracle can never be proved, so as 
to be the foundation of a system of religion. For I 
own that otherwise there may possibly be miracles, or 
violations of the usual course of nature, of such a 
kind as to admit of proof from human testimony, 
though perhaps it is impossible to find any such in 
all the records of history." — That is to say, that 
violations of the usual course of nature may happen, 
and may be proved on human testimony ; only they 
cannot be made the foundation of any religious 
belief; and that, if they should happen, such causes 
as he assigns would, in all cases, be more antece- 
dently probable, than the supposition of their having 
been intended to answer a divine purpose. 

In order to try this point,let us assume a divine pur- 
pose ; and suppose it to be an authoritative declaration 


from God, that, after the year 1600, " //e would no 
lonqer be worshipped in temples made with hands ; " — 
we will also suppose, that there was a belief prevailing 
among mankind, the origin of which could not be 
traced, that in the year named by Hume, as a sign of 
this divine purpose, a darkness such as he describes 
was to happen. Put the case, then, that proof could 
be adduced, showing that at the exact time when 
this extraordinary event was to take place, thousands 
of persons in different countries of the world, were 
all upon the tiptoe of expectation, earnestly watch- 
ing the event ; and that while this state of things 
was at its height, the sun and moon had gradually 
ceased to give their light, and had continued veiled 
in darkness, for the very time which the foreboding 
belief of mankind had oracularly indicated : let me 
ask whether Hume would still have persisted in his 
opinion, that " a miracle can never be proved so as to 
be the foundation of a system of religion ? " Or sup- 
posing that from the year 1600, many nations had 
actually entertained a belief, that God had com- 
manded them to worship him vmder the open canopy 
of heaven ; would he deem this opinion, so derived, 
a superstition ? 

But Hume proceeds to state another case, and 
one more incredible than that, which we have here 
considered. " Suppose," says he, " that all the histo- 
rians who treat of England should agree that, on the 
first of January 1600, Queen Elizabeth died; that, 
l)efore and after her death, she was seen by her 


physicians, and her whole court, as 
persons of her rank ; that her successor -was acknow- 
ledged and proclaimed by the parliament; and that, 
after being interred a month, she again appeared, 
resumed the throne, and governed England for three 
years: — I must confess that I should be surprised at 
the concurrence of so many odd circumstances, but 
should not have the least inclination to believe so 
miraculous an event. I should not doubt of her pre- 
tended death, and of those other public circumstances 
that followed it. I should only assert it to have been 
pretended, and that it neither was, nor could be, real. 
You would in vain object to me the difficulty, and 
almost impossibility, of deceiving the w^orld in an 
affair of such consequence ; the w isdom and solid 
justice of that renowned queen ; with the little or 
no advantage she could gain from so poor an arti- 
fice. All this might astonish me ; but I would still 
reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such 
common phenomena, that I should rather believe the 
most extraordinary events to arise from their con- 
currence, than admit of so signal a violation of the 
laws of nature." 

I incline to think that Hume has rightly ex- 
pressed what, in the circumstances he has stated, 
w^ould be the conclusion of most persons of sound 
understanding. But let us try what would be 
the effect, if we connect the events which he has 
stated, with a supposed antecedent opinion among 


And first, let us amend the case, as here imagined. 
Queen Elizabeth is supposed dying in her bed, pri- 
vately, surrounded by her j)hysicians and court ; — 
that is, by her friends and dependents. But instead 
of Queen Elizabeth, let us substitute the name of 
Charles the First ; whose head was cut off before 
thousands of spectators, and whose executioners 
were his bitter enemies, or at least men who had a 
direct interest in his death. This alteration of the 
circumstances of the case, will bring it nearer to the 
one, which not improbably, was in Hume's mind at 
the time he was writing. Moreover, it renders the 
fact, to all appearance, more unequivocally mira- 
culous ; and therefore, no doubt, more impossible in 
itself, and more difficult to consider as having really 

The case being thus assumed, let us suppose man- 
kind in general, in the year 1648, though other- 
wise enlightened and highly civilized, yet in the 
matter of religion, to have been immersed in igno- 
rance, as dark as that Avhich prevailed tln-oughout 
the world, in the days of Augustus. Suppose, 
further, that one nation there was, very numerous 
in itself, and individuals of which were to be found 
in almost all parts of the world, professing a purer 
form of religion ; among whom a rooted opinion was 
well known to prevail, that in the very generation 
we are speaking of, a revelation would be made to 
mankind by God, the effect of which would be, to 
subvert idolatry in the world, and to introduce a 


new religion, in which the worship of the one true 
God, would form the leading feature. Let us sup- 
pose, finally, that when the surrounding people had 
inquired, what was to be the sign, by which the 
arrival of this epoch was to be known ? they had 
received for answer, that when the time had arrived, 
mankind would know it, by the king of England 
being put to death by the public executioner, and 
afterwards rising from the grave and resuming his 

The question now is, whether, if this fact had 
happened ; or (which is nearly the same thing for all 
the purposes of the argument) if all mankind had 
believed it to have happened ; and if, dating from this 
belief of mankind, paganism immediately had begun 
to stagger, and had thence rapidly declined, and 
the worship of the alone true God had immediately 
begun to spread itself, by a simultaneous dispersion, 
over all the nations of the world, so as to have be- 
come, in the course of two or three generations, the 
predominant faith : — the question, I say, is whether, 
in these circumstances, Hume would think " the 
knavery and folly of mankind " the most probable 
explanation of the phenomena ? For my part, I feel 
inclined to think, that in such a case as has here been 
supposed, the most sceptical reasoner that ever lived 
would look about him, for some very different solu- 
tion ; and whether he found it or not, at least 
he would admit, that mankind in general would 
be content to receive the facts, as marked by the hand 


of God. Whatever may have been the incredulity, 
or even the contempt, with which the majority of 
persons in the world, would probably have regarded 
the expectation, on the part of a particular nation, of 
events so apparently impossible, as the rising of a 
person from the grave, and a consequent change in 
the religious opinions of the world : — whatever, I say, 
may have been the feelings, with which this persuasion 
might have been regarded befoi'ehand : yet, exactly in 
proportion to the previous incredulity of mankind, 
would be the effect which its fulfilment would pro- 
duce ; stamping the fact which Hume considers, and, 
in the circumstances stated by him, justly considers, 
as incredible, not only with the character of truth, 
but with the signature of divine authority. 

In fact, the supposition of a religion suddenly rising 
up in the world, out of a concurrence of such events 
as I have been assuming, without God's express per- 
mission, would be almost as unintelligible, as the 
theory of those ancient philosophers, who endeavoured 
to account for the creation of the world, by the for- 
tuitous concurrence of atoms. On a supposition, that 
the existence of a Supreme Being, had been demon- 
strated to be a thing impossible^ such a theory might 
perhaps claim to be heard ; but only on this sup- 
position. In like manner, supposing the idea of a 
divine revelation to have been convicted of absurdity, 
the hypothesis which would ascribe the origin of such 
an expectation, as I have been si)eaking of, to 
chance, and afterwards explain its fulfilment, by 


the same cause, might perhaps be as likely as any 
other: but the previous proposition, that the com- 
mon opinion involved a philosophical absurdity, 
would surely first require to be demonstrated. For, 
except a divine revelation be impossible, or (which 
is the same thing) incapable of proof by any evi- 
dence, the supposition of its truth, in the case just 
now stated, would unquestionably be attended with 
far fewer difficulties, and be less diametrically con- 
trary to our experience, than any other supposition 
that could be framed. 




In forming our judgment of the future, there are 
many events which we can foresee as credible and 
probable, which it would yet be very unwise to 
expect. We have, indeed, certain general rules 
and principles, upon which we may in some degree 
calculate, but they do not apply to contingent events. 
We know in what way the passions and interests 
of mankind will influence their conduct in various 
particular circumstances ; but, speaking of that class 
of facts which do not depend upon the human will, 
or upon human motives, but solely upon the will of 
God: here, it is not often that men speculate at 
all upon the future ; or if they do, it is merely as 
an exercise of their thoughts ; their hopes and wishes 
stop far short of expectation. 

We saw, in a preceding Lecture, that this last is 
a state of mind, quite distinct from what is called 
opinion ; and also, how important an influence it 


would exercise on the belief of mankind, in the case 
where we suppose a divine revelation, or a miracu- 
lous dispensation of any kind, to be the subject of 
discussion. I would now observe, that although it 
is upon the strength of the expectation itself, and 
not upon the strength of the reasons on which it 
was built, that the effect would depend ; yet, sup- 
posing those reasons to be solid, we should be able 
not only to explain the belief of mankind, but to 
demonstrate, that it was infallibly true. 

If we except the evidence of prophecy, real or 
pretended, I am not able to assign any way in which 
such an exj^ectation could spring up. It is possible 
there may be other ways ; but the question is not 
worth examining. We know that the belief of the i 
Gospel, was preceded by a belief in certain pro- 
phecies ; and it is the origin and authority of those 
prophecies which I am now especially about to con- 
sider. It will, however, be convenient, with a view \ 
to the full understanding of the argument, first / 
to fix in our minds some general rules and prin- \ 
ciples applicable to this particular sort of proof. / 
As it is a kind of evidence, not built upon abstract 
reasoning, nor upon experience, but upon considera- 
tions quite remote from all the ordinary sources of 
our knowledge, I shall not attempt to divide the y 
subject in a strictly logical way ; but be content to 
offer my thoughts in the best manner I am able, 
according to the order, in which they happen to pre- 
sent themselves to my mind. 


I observed just now, that when men reason about 
the future, their conjectures seldom extend to the 
anticipation of contingent events ; but only of such, 
as stand to each other, in some known relation of 
cause and effect. The reason is, that in the former, 
there are no rules by which our judgment can be 
guided./ We may indulge our fancy in random 
guesses ; but a man of sound understanding never 
believes that his fancies will come true. All this is 
too evident to be discussed. It will at once be ad- 
mitted, that the future is known only to God. Pre- 
dictions may come to pass by chance ; but if we 
take a case, from which this possibility is excluded, 
there is no explanation of prophecy, except that of 
divine inspiration, which it is possible to propose. 

Accordingly, if we turn to the treatise Do Natura 
Deorum, in which Cicero discusses the question of a 
Divine Providence, we find him making the Stoic rest 
his proof, of the being of a God, *and of his govern- 
ment of the world, on the science of divination ; as 
considering that to be a kind of knowledge, which 
could not exist at all, on a su})position of the world 
being governed by chance ; nor be attained by human 
wisdom without aid from the divine. He represents 
the Ej)icurcan, on the other hand, as rejecting, for 
the opposite reason, the popular belief altogether, 
because it presupposed the existence of a Supreme 
Being. It is on tlio same view of the subject, tliat 
Josephus commends the use of the Jewish Scriptures 
to the Gentiles. "By them," says lie, "may be re- 


jected the Epicurean doctrine, which would exclude 
a God from the administratjon of human affairs ; for 
how," he observes, "is it possible that the event 
should correspond with the prediction, if things 
below were directed by chance, and not by a wise 
prescience ?" 

The ground of this conclusion does not, I think, 
require to be explained; but the reasoning from 
which it is drawn, is well stated by Cudworth in his 
Intellectual System, in a passage where he is dis- 
cussing the proof of a Divine Providence. "There 
is," he says, " a sort of presaging faculty, which 
may perhaps be supposed to proceed from the 
natural power of created spirits, whom we may 
believe to have larger understandings, and a wdder \ 
comprehension of things, and greater advantages of \ 
knowledge, than men possess ; but when events, 
remotely distant in time, and of which there are no 
immediate causes actually in being; which also 
depend upon many circumstances, and a long series 
of things, any one of which being otherwise, would 
alter the case ; as likewise upon much uncertainty 
of human volitions, which are not always necessarily 
linked and concatenated with what goes before, but 
often loose and free; and upon that contingency 
that arises from the indifferency or equality of eligi- 
bility in objects ; lastly, upon such things as do not 
at all depend upon external circumstances, neither 
are caused by things natural anteceding, but by some 
supernatural power: I say, when such future events 



as these are foretold, and accordingly come to pass, 
this can be ascribed to, no other, but to such a 
Being as comprehends, sways, and governs all ; and 
is, by a peculiar privilege or prerogative of his own 
nature, omniscient." 

This passage of Cudworth expresses, with much 
force and distinctness, the postulate upon which the 
proof of a legitimate prophecy dei)ends. It is not, 
we see, a mere happy or sagacious conjecture, which 
entitles the prediction of an event, to be dignified 
with this name ; but a prediction of facts, unconnected 
with existing causes or passing events ; and depending 
upon contingencies, such as human reason has never 
pretended to calculate. | Whether such prophecies have 
ever been delivered, or have ever come to pass, is 
not now the question. But, assuming this to be the 
hypothesis of the argument ; and supposing that we 
were about to consider, not any stated case, but 
only what sort of evidence, beyond any Avhich 
we know, would be most conclusive of a divine 
revelation ; and could be most easily demonstrated ; 
and might be provided, with least interruption to 
the prescribed course of things ; and would be spread 
with most facility over the widest range both of 
time and space : — I am prepared to show that there 
is none, whether natural or preternatural, of which 
we have any information, that would combine all 
these objects to the same extent or degree, as this 
of prophecy : — no miracle, therefore, which, sup- 
posing a divine revelation, would be more likely to 



have been employed by God; or to the employ- 
ment of which, there would be so few speculative 

In examining the use which is made of the argu- 
ment from prophecy, by writers upon the Evidences, 
it is for the most part impossible to discern the 
exact place which it is made to hold: a remark 
which will apply as pointedly to Paley as to any 
one. So far as I have observed, the use of pro- 
phecy is commonly regarded, not as an integral part 
of the Evidences, but as a sort of supplemental 
proof, which is over and above what the argument 
really requires. Accordingly, the evidence from 
miracles is always so stated, as if it were com- 
plete in itself, and needed no collateral support. I 
shall not stop to examine this position. It may 
or may not be true, in the present state of Christi- 
anity ; but assuredly it was not true of Christianity, 
before it was established. 

I. In the proof of a miracle, as we have already 
partly seen, and as I shall hereafter have occa- 
sion to show more at large, the point of the argu- 
ment, where some collateral evidence, over and 
above a proof of the facts, must be produced, is 
in the link, which should connect the testimony of 
the witnesses to what they saw, with the truth of 
that, which is only their opinion. Did the fact 
really happen ? That may be proved, we will sup- 
pose, on their affirmation. But if we go on to ask. 
How did it happen ? By what power or authority ? 



For what purpose ? These are not questions to be 
determined on the oath of witnesses as to what was 
their opinion and belief, but on the reasons they 
may be able to allege. And their reasons must be 
drawn, not ex parte rei, as logicians express it; that is, 
not from the nature of the facts ; but ecV parte eHerni, 
or from what is termed circumstantial evidence. 

Now there is little difficulty in stating where this 
extraneous evidence is to be sought in the case of 
miracles, which we suppose to have happened five 
hundred years ago. — For what professed end were 
they performed? What was the character of the 
end proposed? Was it accomplished ? — The answer to 
these questions would enable us to determine, whether 
the miracles were the effect of human agency 
or not. But in the case where we are examining 
the meaning and character of facts, happening 
before our eyes, no appeal of this sort is possible. 
The testimony of experience is here necessarily 
wanting ; and if we should appeal to reason, all we 
could do, would be to take up Butler's argument; 
and show that our explanation of the facts was con- 
formable to what we know of God's natural govern- 
ment of tlie world. 

But if wc would see how little use could be made 
of such a mode of reasoning in the case I am now 
stating ; suppose that the Apostles had been confined 
to this resource. Is it to be thought that mankind 
would have believed in the divine authority of the 
miracles wrought by Christ, from the mere analogy 


of his doctrines with certain deep and refined spe- 
culations? In the present day, indeed, Butler's 
argument is triumphant ; because it is in answer to 
those who assert that the doctrines of Christianity 
are incredible and absurd. This way of thinking 
can be directly met, only by a metaphysical argu- 
ment. But in a case where we suppose ourselves to 
be examining, not into the truth of abstract objections, 
but into the cause of a stated fact, and the end for 
which it was designed : — to propose an explanation, 
the proof of which, is not drawn out of the fact itself, 
but from theoretical data of any kind whatever, 
would be worse than useless. 

It is here then, at the place where the testimony 
of witnesses can yield us no assistance, and where 
reason can offer nothing but conjecture, that the 
necessity arises for that peculiar help, which prophecy 
is able to afford. 

II. The next remark which I have to propose, is 
a sort of corollary from the preceding. As the proper 
use of prophecy is, — not to prove the truth of facts, 
but only to explain them : it is not necessary, in this 
view, that the event should be of an extraordinary 
kind, or one which supposes a deviation from the 
laws of nature. Be the event what it may, if it 
can clearly be proved to have been predicted ; it 
becomes on this supposition, at once a miracle. I 
will illustrate this by an example, which will assist 
in explaining my meaning better, perhaps, than a 
general proposition can do. 


Ill a review by Le Clerc, quoted by Jortin from the 
Bibl. Anc. et Mod., where the former is examining the 
proofs of a Divine Providence, we are told, "that in the 
number of providential interpositions, supposing the 
fact to be true, might be placed what happened on 
the coasts of Holland and Zealand, the 14th July 
1672. The United Provinces having ordered public 
prayers to God, when they feared that the French 
and English fleets would make a descent on their 
coasts, it came to pass that when these fleets waited 
only for a tide to land from their smaller vessels, it 
was retarded, contrary to the usual course, for twelve 
hours, which disappointed the design ; so that the 
enemies were obliged to defer it to another oppor- 
tunity, which they never found, because of a storm, 
which arose afterwards and drove them from the 
coast. A thing of this nature, happening at such a 
conjuncture to save the country from ruin, was ac- 
counted miraculous; and a prediction of it," ob- 
serves Le Clerc, " would have proved it to be so. 
However, as nothing falls out without the Divine con- 
currence, there was great reason to return God thanks 
for the deliverance. In the history of other nations, 
events of this kind are recorded, which, if thc)j had 
' been foretold, must have been accounted real mi- 
racles." / ' '■ ■' ■'/ • '■''.—■■ ' ^^-e>^»— i /:- 

According to this narrative, it is plain, that the 
safety of Holland was in fiict effected by the storm 
which drove the combined fleets from the coast, 
much more than by the delay of the tide. This last 


would seem, prima facie, to have been only an acci- 
dental occurrence. Nevertheless, supposing it to be 
true, it was an unusual occurrence; and if the disper- 
sion of the combined fleet had been the subject of a 
prophecy, with the circumstance of this particular 
fact, of the delay of the tide, appended, in order to 
exclude the supposition of its having come true by 
chance: — the majority of mankind, in that case, would 
rightly have considered the predicted tempest, to have 
been the effect of a miraculous interposition. Much, 
however, depends upon the truth of the fact about 
the tide, which Le Clerc evidently does not mean to 
vouch for. The tempest, by itself, might be ascribed 
to chance; but if predicted, in concurrence with 
another independent event, such a supposition be- 
comes excluded ; and the miraculousness of the pro- 
vidence, by which Holland was preserved, would not, 
in such a case, be doubted by mankind. 

It is clear from this instance, that the most or-| 
dinary event might, in this way, be made to wear al 
miraculous aspect. It is the tacit supposition of a 
divine interposition, which constitutes a miracle; and 
not our ignorance of the causes from which it pro- 
ceeded. The destruction of Babylon, extraordinary 
as the circumstances connected with it appear to 
have been, presents itself to us in the pages of He- \ 
rodotus, simply as a great historical event ; but it 
wears a very different aspect, as related in the Old 
Testament. The prophecies which preceded its 
capture and desolation, (if we believe them to have 


been written in the age which they pretend, and to 
have been correctly interpreted,) by connecting its 
overthrow with the immediate agency of God, give 
it a character, which is quite distinct from that which 
, we attribute to the destruction of Carthage, or the 
/ capture of Syracuse. 

III. /Another pecuharity to be noticed in the 
nature of prophecy, — and by which it is advan- 
tageously distinguished from every other kind of 
miracle — regards the ease by which its pretensions to 
truth may be determined! If a passage was found 
in Holingshed's Chronicle, stating that he had seen a 
prophecy, in which it was foretold, that in the year 
1900 the throne of England would be filled by a 
queen, who would die, in the last day of the year, of 
a slow consumption : strange as it would be, if the 
event should happen — yet those living at the time 
would have no difficulty in ascertaining either the 
authenticity of the prophecy, or the fact of its fulfil- 
, Again, in the case of prophecy — and viewing this 
! evidence in the abstract — the question may easily be 
' cleared of all suspicion of fraud or collusion, or con- 
/ trivance of any sort. . In the instance where the pre- 
diction preceded the event, by a long interval of years, 
such an explanation would be excluded by the very 
terms of the hypothesis. But even in the case, where 
the event is to come to pass, within the lifetime of 
those, to whom the prediction is delivered : if we 
only suppose the fulfilment of it to depend upon 


events, over which human agents can confessedly 
exercise no control, — all the rest is a matter easy to 
be determined ; depending upon the truth of facts, 
about which there need be no difference of opinion. 
Supposing the meaning of the prophecy to be quite 
clear and unambiguous, and to refer to an event about 
which, if it happened, there could be no mistake; 
two points only, and those very easy of proof, would 
require to be ascertained : — the date of the pre- 
diction, and the truth of the event. 

But even in the case where the sense of the words, 
in which the prophecy was expressed, is obscure and 
doubtful : yet if it was delivered from the first as a 
prophecy and received by mankind as such; and was 
expected by them to be fulfilled in a particular sense : 
then that particular sense, is the only point which we 
have to consider. If the prophecy was fulfilled, agree- 
ably to the sense, which was put upon it by those who 
were living before the event ; and in conformity with 
the ewpedation excited in their minds ; (for this it is 
upon which, as I before explained, the force of the 
evidence depends ;) then it must pass for a divine 
testimony. People afterwards may argue upon the 
words, and shew that they mifjJit have had another 
meaning; but if the meaning, put upon them by 
mankind from the beginning, came to pass : that 
determines the controversy. It is not the conformity 
of the event with certain articulate sounds which 
constitutes the miracle ; but its conformity with the 



t. ''^^ '"^ 



1 •^-«- , 


antecedent hopes and opinions, of those who were 
looking forward to this proof. ^/ 

This is a remark, which I mention as of great eon- 
sequence to be borne in mind. It is one, to which I 
shall have frequent occasion to revert hereafter; and 
^f^/*~^'^iA which a very important use will be made, when 
I come to examine the principles, on which many of 
^y;, the Jewish prophecies, will require to be inter- 

IV. A fourth advantage which the evidence of 
( prophecy presents, over every other kind of miracle, 
/ is, that it interferes not in any way, either with the 
liberty of human actions, or any settled law of na- 
/ ture. /But more particularly it is in this respect 
)C superior : — that the proof of other miracles depends 
upon the report of witnesses, who were present at 
: the transactions ; that is, upon an evidence, not only 
1 1 weak and fallible in many points, but which is re- 
stricted to a particular spot, as well as to a single 
/ age : — whereas, prophecy is a proof, which is able to 
stand alone ; and without any circumstantial limita- 
tions. It relies not upon the judgment, or opinion, 
, or senses of mankind ; it is not necessarily confined 
) to the people of one generation; nor does it lose any 
I part of its force, by the lapse of time./ Supposing the 
present dispersion of the Jews, to have been the 
subject of a distinct prediction, it aftbrds as conclu- 
sive a j)roof of the divine inspiration of the Jewish 
Scriptures in the present day, as it did a thousand 


years ago ; and this, through all the nations of the 

But this evidence is not only complete in itself, 
without any collateral support — either from general 
reasoning or from other subsidiary miracles ; but 
moreover, it carries along with it, its own interpre- 
tation ; that is to say, not only is the impress of 
divine authority, visibly stamped upon the very hypo- 
thesis of this proof; but it may be so contrived, as 
to explain at the same time, the end and purpose for 
which it was intended. 

For example : — supposing the fact of the captivity 
of the Jews in Babylon, to have been declared many 
years beforehand, though not listened to by them or 
their rulers : — in that case, their subjugation was the 
effect of a miraculous interposition ; that is, it was 
an especial act of Divine Providence, and must have 
been so considered by the nation. But the cause of 
it, might nevertheless have been concealed; and if 
so, it could not have been divined by any help from 
mere signs and wonders. Supposing however the 
account which we find in the Old Testament, of this 
great event, to be true ; and that the calamity had 
really been fore-denounced, as a judgment upon the 
Jews for their obstinate idolatry ; on this supposition, 
the reason of their punishment must have been as 
well known to them, as was the hand, by which it 
was inflicted. And such, judging from the history, 
appears to have been the fact. For that, which the 




renieiiibrance of all God's miracles in Egypt had 
failed to effect, seems to have been accomplished, by 
this signal example of the Divine power and dis- 
pleasure ; so much so, that the Jewish people are 
thenceforth described, as having never again fallen 
into idolatry. 

This is the statement of the fact, as recorded in 
Scripture. Whether true or false, it is consistent 
with itself, and with every thing that we know of 
human nature. There is therefore, I may observe, 
no ground for the remark insinuated by Bolinbroke 
and repeated by Gibbon, that the many previous 
lapses of the nation, inii3lied a disbelief of the 
wonders ^vrought by Moses." The fact only shows, how 
strong is the effect, which a clear case of prophecy is 
calculated, in certain circumstances, to produce upon 
the imagination of mankind. Other gods, besides 
the God of their fathers, could work (so the Jews 
would appear to have believed) signs and wonders ; 
but their long fore-warned captivity in Babylon, and 
the subsequent fulfilment of their promised return to 
their own home and country, afforded a proof so un- 
equivocal, of the over-ruling and omnipotent Power, 
to which they, as a nation, were subject, as seems to 
have dispelled thenceforth all idolatrous illusions for 
ever from their minds. And if what is related in the 
Bible be true, they reasoned justly ; the miracles 
wrought ])y Moses, according to the notions of man- 
kind in that age, did not demonstrate that the God 

^/^yt-»!Lift-^ A^^t-#Ow^"tf— J^x*— ^^*^' x'Ve.- <v.'.A^,«^ 

^^^ J~A'-i*-.^ OFyPROPHECY.; / , _ ^1 ^-^ y ^"^i'^'* 

of Israel was the Supreme Ruler of the universe — the ^^j , ^1^ 
captivity and restoration of the nation, under the y^'''^.!^^ 
circumstances stated in the Bible, did. ,;'.*,vv^. .. #-/^ 

V. The next characteristic peculiarity of this "^/-'^ /^ 
evidence, showing its superiority over every other ^^ ^^^Z^^ 
form of proof by which a divine testimony can be XV*..^ « sf 
demonstrated, is this : that while other miracles are, 
as it were, units, and constitute a proof, the force of 
which can be increased only by the process of addi- ■, 
tion : — prophecy, on the other hand, may be combined 
into a regular scheme; and the force of the evidence, \ 
as well as the extent, both of space and time, over 
which the knowledge of it may be spread, be multi- 
plied and increased ad infinitum. 

Let us suppose, for example, some great event in 
history to have been clearly predicted ; one which 
no concerted efforts of mankind could possibly have 
brought to pass ; and the causes of which were so 
complicated and so remotely connected with each 
other, in time as well as in place, as to make the sup- 
position of its having been foreseen, by any effort of 
that presaging wisdom which Cudworth speaks of, 
quite impossible. The case is readily imagined ; for 
more than half the events we read of, are of this 
kind. Unless, then, we suppose the previous know- 
ledge of this event, to have been communicated to 
mankind in some miraculous manner, we must of 
necessity believe that the prediction was uttered by 
chance ; at least we should be obliged to consider its 
coming to pass, as having been the result of one of 


those extraordinary coincidences, with which one is 
every now and then surprised. 

Put the case, however, that there was a series of 
prophecies, by different persons and in different ages, 
all predicting this same event ; and each of them 
adding some limitation, or supplying some particular, 
which had been till then omitted : suppose, further, 
that the authors of all these successive prophecies, 
had professed to speak, not as of themselves, but by 
the inspiration of God : would any one, under these 
circumstances, contend, that the coincidence of the 
event with the previous prediction and belief, was 
only accidental ? I think not ; but to prevent doubt, 
the case may be made still stronger. 
/ I have just now supposed the predictions to be mul- 
tiplied, but that the subject of them all, was one and 
the same fact. But let the subject itself be also 
multiplied. Suppose some one great and leading 
fact, to have been connected with other facts, hap- 
pening in different ages and in distant parts of the 
world ; all emanating, as it were, from the same 
point, and yet directed to one common centre, and 
so co-operating with each other in one great end, as 
at length to have united the thoughts and hopes of 
half mankind in one general expectation : — If one by 
one, and in due order, every particular event was regu- 
larly brought to pass, and the general expectation 
came to be exactly fulfilled: — would the most scej^tical 
man that ever lived, still continue to believe, that all 
this was likewise the effect of chance ? 


It will perhaps be said that the case which I have 
been putting is purely imaginary ; but that is a point 
for future inquiry. In the mean time, I think it will 
be readily conceded that, supposing the case not im- 
aginary, it would demonstrate the hypothesis of a 
divine interposition, by an evidence as irresistible 
as any that could possibly be proposed. In mere 
certainty, its proof would equal that of a mathemati- 
cal theorem. 

The greater the number of the events predicted, 
and the farther they are separated from each other 
in time and place, the stronger the presumption be- 
comes, on this scheme of proof, that the fulfilment of 
them was not effected by any human combination. 
The more miraculous we suppose them to be, and 
the more contrary to the previous experience of 
mankind : the less likely it is, that the prediction of 
them should have come true by chance. The 
greater the end to be accomplished, the more remote 
from the conjectures of reason, the more impos- 
sible on the principles of human probability and 
belief: so much the more credible and intelligible 
that explanation becomes, which ascribes the whole 
to God. 

VI. There remains yet one other point of view, in 
which this proof from prophecy may be looked at, 
and advantageously compared with that from any 
other sort of miracle ; which is, that every other sort 
of miracle is dumb, if I may so express myself ; it 
utters no voice — it gives no answer. Whatever in- 


formation it conveys, is extrinsic, and must be deduced 
by argument and reasoning : — on any supposition it 
only indicates the intervention of Divine Power. But 
as to the purpose of such intervention, and the truths 
or propositions which, on the supposition of a pre- 
tended revelation, it was intended that mankind should 
be brought to believe, — on these points, all other 
miracles, if we had nothing except the facts to reason 
from, would leave us in total darkness. Light may 
be struck out of them, but it must be by means of 
some application from without. 

But prophecy is not only a proof of the Divine 
interposition ; it is, in the case of a revelation, the 
missive, as we may say, on which the subject-matter 
of the revelation, may be written. | What I mean 
is, that not only may mankind be prepared before- 
hand, by means of prophecy, to receive the revelation 
to be communicated to them ; but by the same means, 
they may be prepared to distinguish, at the proper 
time, the truths and doctrines which they shall be 
directed to believe. 

No figure can more correctly represent the idea 
to be conveyed, as there is none more common with 
the writers, both of the Old and New Testaments, 
than that which teaches us to consider the Prophets 
and Apostles, as ambassadors from God to mankind. 
In the third chapter of Exodus, where God com- 
missions Moses to communicate to Pharaoh, as well 
as to the children of Israel, his divine will that the 
latter should depart from Egypt, in order to sacrifice 


to liim in tlie wilderness, this character of an ambas- 
sador from heaven, is distinctly attributed to Moses. 
In the case of a revelation, it is a title which 
represents very accurately, the functions which the 
first teachers of it have to perform ; for they have no 
judgment or discretion of their own to exercise ; their 
whole authority being derived from the commission 
under which they act. 

Putting out of view for a moment the subject- 
matter of the commission itself, let us keep our 
mind, for the present, simply on the idea here pre- 
sented to us — of an embassy sent by the ruler of some 
powerful empire to a neighbouring state. And let 
us suppose the proposals of which he was the bearer, 
to be of a kind seemingly very improbable in them- 
selves, and rendered more so, from the absence of 
every external mark of dignity about the person of 
the ambassador. Under such circumstances, it is 
evident that the people, among whom he arrived, 
would require, in the first place, to see his creden- 
tials ; that is, to have some proof of his pretensions 
to the character which he assumed. For this pur- 
pose, it would not be enough to bring testimonials 
to the honesty and respectability of his personal 
character ; nor, supposing doubts to have been raised 
as to his authority, would they be removed, by his 
offering to shew the reasonableness, and usefulness, 
and importance of the propositions, which he had to 
communicate : — he would be required to bring the 
proof of his commission, under the seal and signature 




of his master, before the propositions to be made, 
would be taken into consideration. 

But if, upon listening to the subject of his com- 
munication, it should turn out, that instead of the 
proposals, which it contained, being reasonable and 
evidently beneficial, just the contrary was the light 
in which they appeared ; and that, in the apprehen- 
sion of those to whom they were made, they were 
in the highest degree unpalatable, as tending to 
subvert all existing interests and relations ; and 
most improbable, judging by experience, to have 
proceeded from the quarter to which they were 
ascribed : — it is plain, that on this fresh supposition, 
new matter for consideration arises ; and that the 
circumstances of the case are at once materially 
changed for the worse. 

In the first place, room would be opened for the 
suspicion of fraud or deception of some kind ; or at 
least, of some mistake having been committed. The 
credentials might be supposititious; or have been 
obtained improperly; or, even if this were deemed 
unlikely, yet the person by whom they were borne, 
might possibly have mistaken his instructions ; and, 
in the proposals delivered by him, might have spoken 
rather according to his own folly, than according to 
the real sentiments of him, by whom he was sent, 
or the interests of those, to whom he was accredited. 
At all events, not even the production of the seal 
and signature of the master would by itself alone, in 
the circumstances here stated, be considered as 


conclusive testimony, either to the wisdom or justice 
of the propositions to be debated, or of the autho- 
rity, on which they were asserted to have been 

In this situation of the case, let us then make a \ 
third supposition. Imagine it to have been known / 
beforehand and expected, that an ambassador of an 
unusual character was to be sent, bearing a commu- / 
nication which also was to be extraordinary. Or, 
to frame the case yet more exactly : suppose a ] 
sealed document to have preceded his arrival, — about ' 
the authority of which no doubt was, or could be 
entertained — with directions for not opening it until 
after his presentation. Here would be a test, that 
would at once determine the true character of the 
authority which ne pretended. If upon opening the 
document, its contents were found to agree, in all 
important, and in many merely circumstantial points, ^ 
with the terms which had been before communicated : 
the feeling of surprise might still remain ; the pru- 
dence, the justice, the propriety of the propositions, 
would be open to examination perhaps ; but no 
question would remain about the authority, on which 
the propositions were made, nor any doubt, either 
about the character of the bearer, or the fidelity J 
with which he had fulfilled his instructions. (, 

I think it can hardly be necessary to point out 
the application. We have only to substitute the 
words " God," and " Jesus Christ," and " mankind," 
and the '" doctrines of the Gospel," and the " mi- 



racles of the New Testament," and the " prophecies 
of the Old,** In the place of the corresponding names 
of persons and things here supposed — and you will 
have at once, what I apprehend to be the hypo- 
thesis, on which the belief of mankind in the divine 
authority of the Christian revelation was originally 
built. If we suppose the sealed document to be the 
Jewish Scriptures : and the contents of it, to have 
consisted, not of proposals of state, but of prophe- 
ciesj such as were just now described, relating to 
things and truths, thereafter to be communicated 
and believed : — Then have we the exact case of a 
revelation : one, from which not only all doubt 
as to the character of the messenger would have 
been removed ; but in which, the subject-matter also 
of his communication, would have been stamped with 
the seal of an authority, from which there was no 
appeal. The prudence, and justice, and propriety ' 
of the propositions would, on this supposition, be 
infallibly certain : and the only question that could 
be raised, would regard the authority of the docu- 
ment itself. This was just now assumed ; but of 
course, in the instance of any case, in which a real 
revelation should be pretended, that point would 
require to be proved. 



There is no book, whose loss would cause so wide 
a chasm in our historical knowledge, as the Old 
Testament. But for it, we should be without the 
materials for so much as even a tradition, respect- 
ing the early ages of the world. Of its value as a 
literary document, it may be sufficient to observe 
that the language in which it is written had ceased 
to be a spoken language, before any other history {rj 
now extant was composed ; and that the facts which ' 

it records are exactly those about which our curiosity 
would be most alive, supposing we had no informa- 
tion concerning the original ancestors of mankind, 
beyond what has been preserved in the broken, and 
for the most part, fabulous traditions, which we find 
in the ancient poets. 

As there are no contemporary records, it is of 
course impossible to discuss the authenticity of this 


uSe< - r //. V**^ #^^ ">^^ -^'' - A ^rV. .-^ > ?^^^' 


volume, by a comparison with other accounts; it is 
only from internal marks that any argument can be 
drawn.' Prima facie, no doubt, the extraordinary 
character of the events, with which the Jewish part 
of the history is filled, would detract from the 
general credit of the writers. But putting this ob- 
jection aside, and speaking only of style and manner, 
there are no writings of antiquity, not even those of 
Homer himself, so indelibly stamped with the fea- 
tures of truth. 

Literary forgeries belong to a literary age ; and 
not to a state of manners, such as we may suppose 
to have existed at Babylon or Jerusalem, 600 years 
before Christ. Omitting this, however, it may be 
safely said, that if there be a history in the world 
free from every imputation, or even surmise of 
forgery or fiction, as arising out of any perceptible 
design, on the part either of the historian or the 
nation, it is the Jewish. Abounding as it does, 
beyond all others, in wonders and apparent improba- 
bilities, and in subjects fitted to feed that spirit of 
national boasting which seems inherent in human 
nature, yet when such events are recorded in the 
Old Testament, it seems to be without any end 
which we can assign, except the simple purpose, 
of placing the wickedness of the nation in a more 
conspicuous light, j In the victories of the Jews, 
no mention is ever made of the prowess of the 
soldiers, or the skill of the commander ; in their 
defeats, it is never attempted to extenuate the 


disgrace. From the beginning to the end of the 
Bible, I do not recollect one word which can be 
construed, as the language of national vanity ; while 
there is hardly a page, in which some passage is not 
to be found, humiliating to this feeling. A more 
dark and unfavourable portraiture, than that which 
the Jewish people have preserved of themselves, has 
never since been drawn of any nation, even by its 
enemies. And yet, painful and disagreeable as the 
likeness is, this history has been preserved by them, 
even to the present time, with an anxiety and 
solicitude which, without a knowledge of their re- 
ligious opinions, would not be easily explained, even 
if we suppose it to be true. But if we suppose it 
to be untrue, and that the events described in it 
never really happened, this will only change the 
difficulty ; it will not solve the problem. 

Whether the Pentateuch was written by Moses, 
or by some one living in a more recent age, is a 
question which, when once raised, cannot, from the 
nature of things, be determined on the common 
principles of criticism. But the important question \ 
is, were the events, related in the Pentateuch, be- 
lieved from the beginning by the people, among j 
whom they are described as having happened ? If 
they were not, then how are we to account for their 
submission to those very burthensome institutions 
which, if we may trust that book, were founded 
on a belief of the facts there related, and on that 
belief alone ? 

-" • ^ / . ->/ ^^ 


Suppossing the truth of these facts, they must 
necessarily have been witnessed, not by the relater 
alone, whoever he was, but by the whole multitude 
of persons who followed Moses into the wilderness. 
If they were not true, it is plain that there is no 
middle sup])osition : The whole history, from be- 
ginning to end, must have been not only an inven- 
tion, but an invention many ages posterior to the 
asserted date of the transactions ; because, if they 
had taken place, the memory of them would not 
have passed away in one, nor in two, nor in three 
generations ; and the first beginning of their being 
believed must be referred to some period long 
posterior. This belief must, however, have had a 
beginning ; and, therefore, the question has been 
often asked, but never answered by those who reject 
the book of Exodus — at what time shall we date 
its origin ? 
^^ , The difficulty here proposed, is also increased by 
~ ( another consideration : — If the facts related in the 
Pentateuch did not really happen, how are we to 
\ account for the origin of the social and religious in- 
/ stitutions of the Jews ? By what possible means, 
\ under any conceivable construction of circumstances, 
/ and at any after-period whatever, the whole Jewish 
\ people should have been brought to credit so mar- 
vellous a narrative, relating to their own immediate 
nation and country, (supposing it to have been a mere 
fiction,) is far from easy to imagine : but that they 
/ should have been persuaded to change their manners. 



and customs, and ways of life, and modeB^^f worship, \ T 
at any such after-period; and to adopt ai),. entirely 
new code of laws, with respect to every on« of these 
particulars, in consequence of their sudden belief in 
facts, then and there for the first time heard of, and 
which were not pretended to have been wrought 
among tjiemselves, but.amons their aocestors rnany 
hundred years backj: this ignvcterly incomprehensible. 
It would be an extraordinary moral phenomenon 
on any hypothesis ; even if the laws they had 
agreed to, be supposed mild and easy. But on the 
contrary, these laws are of an opposite character. 
They are not, like those we are accustomed to read 
of among other nations, intended merely to regu- 
late, with a view to the general welfare, the conduct 
of individuals in their intercourse with each other, 
as members of a body politic. They are not few and 
simple, shortly learned and easily explained ; but, 
according to the statements of the learned among 
the Jews, they amount to more than 600 precepts ; 
of which the greater part, do not affect the interests 
of the community at large, have no relation to mu- 
tual rights, but are strictly personal sacrifices ; some 
of them as irksome as if they had been intended to 
be penal ; while a large proportion of the remainder 
admit of no explanation, on any ground of expe- 
diency; and can by no possibility be enjoined as 
duties, except on the principle, of implicit obedience 
to the supposed command, of some absolute and 
irresistible power. 

# /* c- 

lA T Al ^fY ^C ^^ ^"^ AUTHENTICITY ['XJECJi ^^ 

^ Now if/ we receiv^iiie 'Jewish Scriptures as an 
autlientic document, this particular difficulty is at 
once removed. Tf the miracles ascribed to IVIoses, 
whether rightly or wrongly, were believed by those 
who were his contemporaries : however hard it may 
be to account for such belief or for the facts them- 
selves-^t will not be hard to account for the acqui- 
escence of the Jews, of after ages, in the laws which 
he imposed and which they found established. But 
if the facts, on the authority of which the laws were 
submitted to, neither happened nor were believed to 
have happened, until many generations after : in this 
case, the conduct of the Jews must have been based 
upon such unintelligible principles of reasoning, such 
a total confusion of ideas, as no ingenuity can pretend 
to unravel. 

For let us put the case here supposed, and judge 
of it by our own experience : and for this purpose, in- 
stead of the Jewish, let us substitute the laws of the 
Christian code. These last, are all of them confessedly 
agreeable to reason, and to the feelings of the wiser 
and better part of the world, as being plainly cal- 
culated to promote the peace and happiness of man- 
kind ; and, therefore, strict as they may be, and in 
some respects hard to practise, it will nevertheless be 
admitted, that it would be an easier task to persuade 
individuals, or a whole nation, to bend their necks 
to the authority of Christ, than to the severe yoke of 
the Jewish ritual. But what, lot me ask, would be 
the success of a Christian missionary, preaching among 


the New Zealanders, or any barbarous and idolatrous 
people, if as an argument for submitting to the pre- 
cepts of the Gospel, he were to tell them, that the 
miracles recorded of Christ had been worked among 
themselves in the time of their forefathers ; and were 
even to go so far, as to appeal to their own memories 
and consciences, for the truth of what he said ? 

Surely such an appeal would be thought akin to 
madness. Whatever difficulty there might be, in 
persuading a people, who had never heard of Christ, 
to believe in the miracles ascribed to him, it would 
not be diminished, but very greatly increased, if it 
was also attempted to make them believe, that they 
had been wrought in their own country; and more- 
over that the precepts in question, though never 
heard of before, were the very laws which their fore- 
fathers had handed down to them. Such, however, is 
precisely the hypothesis which we find in the Old Tes- 
tament. Whether we take up the historical, or the 
prophetical, or the devotional parts of the volume — 
the wonders which God wrought for their fathers in 
Egypt, is the one topic always urged upon the Jews, 
as the foundation of their duty to obey the com- 
mandments which he then gave them. But if these 
wonders never happened, and had never before been 
believed to have happened : — was the nation out of 
its senses, or were the writers ; that the former should 
have been induced to listen, or the latter have hoped 
to persuade, by such an argument? 

If indeed we were at liberty to believe, not only 

Y \.>C-<^ 


that the facts described in the Pentateuch never 
happened ; but that the laws themselves, which we 
suppose to have rested upon them, were never really 
received by the Jews — the reasoning would cohere. 
But the testimony of history is peremptory on this 
point ; or even if it were silent, the present existence 
of the Jews affords a living proof, not only of the 
general reality of the history contained in the Old 
Testament, but of an attachment to the laws and 
institutions described in it, such as there is no 
example of, in the history of any other people upon 
record. " All other nations," says Philo, writing 
while Jerusalem was yet standing ', " that have pos- 
sessed codes of laws, have changed them, at times, 
in various particulars. Wars, foreign and domestic, 
and other adverse circumstance^, or else luxury and 
the love of change, or even prosperity itself, have 
occasioned the institutions of most nations, to vary 
with the varying condition of the people for whom 
they were intended. But the Jewish law," says he, 
" has not been changed so much as in one particular, 
since the time of its first promulgation. It alone 
has continued firm and unmoved, as if stamped with 
the signature of nature herself. And although no 
other people have endured so many afflictions as the 
Jewish; nor been exposed, in an equal degree, to every 
vicissitude of good or bad fortune — yet not one single 
iota {ov^tv ouSe twv ^iKpoTtpoiv), has been cancelled or 

' De Vita Mosis, lib. ii. 


annulled. Neither hunger, nor pestilence, nor wars, 
nor kings, nor tyrants ; neither sedition, nor any evil, 
either of divine or human infliction, have been able to 
supersede the attachment of the Jewish people to the 
commandment of their fathers, or to tempt them 
from the observance of it." 

In these remarks, I have confined myself simply to 
the truth of the great leading facts, related in the 
book of Exodus. I have not entered upon the 
question about the authorship of that, or the other 
books ascribed to Moses. Supposing these books to 
be true, and to have been written at the time they 
pretend, no important conclusion would be affected, 
by the supposition that the writer of them was 
unknown. That some changes of names and other-^ 
slight verbal additions may have crept into the text, 
from marginal notes or the errors of transcribers, is 
probable ; it would be a miracle if they had not ; but 
that the five first books of the Old Testament, be the i 
date of them what it may, or be the author of them 
who he may, are not forgeries, but genuine compo- 
sitions — is a matter about which I cannot understand 
how a/doubt should exist, in the mind of any man of 
ordm^ry taste and knowledge. As far as language, • 
sentiment, and composition afford the means of judg-( 
ing, they are the very coinage of truth itself. It ] 
is the miraculous character of the history, which ■ ' 
alone could have suggested a suspicion about its 
authenticity. -"^ But the belief of the Jews them- 
selves in the reality of the events, up to the very 


time when they are described as happening, is a 
fact so mixed up with all their feelings, and opi- 
nions, and institutions, that the supposition of the 
truth of the history, is the only key we have to 
explain the case : reject this supposition, and ques- 
tions will arise on every side, which we shall vainly 
attempt to resolve. 

It would be easy to extend these remarks, and by 
a comparison of the books among each other, in 
the way which Paley has adopted with so much 
success, in his Horae Paulinse, to prove their authen- 
ticity by marks of another kind. But this task has 
been ably performed by others ; and it is besides 
not necessary to the present argument. As I am 
now about to enter upon a consideration of the 
Prophecies of the Old Testament, it seemed ne- 
cessary to say something of the authenticity of the 
book in which they are found ; and I have done so, 
in deference to this supposed necessity ; but how- 
ever important it may be, on other accounts, to de- 
monstrate the historical credibility of the Jewish 
Scriptures, yet the questions at issue belong to other 
departments of theology ; they have no logical con- 
nection with theEvidences of the Christian Revelation. 
The credibility of the historical parts of the Jewish 
Scriptures is only important to us, inasmuch as from 
the frequent allusions to them in the New Testa- 
ment, the authority of the latter may seem to stand 
pledged for their veracity. But the truth or false- 
hood of the history of the New Testament itself. 


depends upon proofs quite independent of the mi- 
racles performed by Moses. 

Supposing these last to be true, and the books in 
which they are recorded, to have been written under 
the sanction of divine authority, it well becomes 
Christians to meditate upon this part of the Old Testa- 
ment, with a view to general edification. But the con- n 
nection of the Christian with the Jewish covenant must 
be sought, not in the miracles, nor in the historical 
parts generally of the ancient Scriptures, but in the 
types and prophecies which they contain. These v 
have been incorporated with the history of the 
Jews, partly, perhaps, in order to keep them alive 
in the memory and belief of mankind; but ex- 
cept for this or some similar reason, it would not 
affect any part of the argument on which the pre- 
sent belief of Christianity is founded, if the historical 
books of the Old Testament had not been handed 
down to us at all. 

We may soon satisfy ourselves that this is so, 
by examining any work upon the Evidences, eithei- 
by recent writers or by the ancient apologists. In 
none do we find that any part of the argument is 
ever drawn from the facts contained in the Jewish 
Scriptures. Sometimes allusion is made to the 
New Testament, as confirming the divine authority 
of the Old ; but I am acquainted with no writer, 
who has adduced the wonders which God wrought 
by the hand of Moses, in proof of the miracles 
ascribed to Christ. It is the adversary of Christi- 



anity who commonly appeals to the Old Testament ; 
this being the side on which he deems the evidence 
to be weakest. The effect has often been, to excite 
alarm in pious minds, without, however, in the least 
affecting the subject-matter in debate. A moment's 
consideration must shew us, that the truth of the 
Mosaic miracles is one question, and that of the 
Christian, quite another. And as it is not fair on 
the one side, so neither is it wise on the other, to 
treat them as if they were indissolubly united ; to 
make the New Testament " answer with its life," 
as Paley expresses it, " for every fact recorded in 
the Old." 

I do not mean to suggest any doubt about the 
credibility of the last ; but it must necessarily be 
more easy for us to demonstrate the miracles, upon 
which the truth of Christianity is built, than those, 
upon which the Jew supports his faith. And since 
the former might easily be true, even though we 
supposed the latter to be without any reasonable 
proof, they ought upon every principle to be re- 
garded as two separate questions. Our Saviour 
often alludes to points of Jewish history; but it is 
) only to the " Law and the Prophets" that he refers 
( as " they that testify of him." Accordingly there 
can be no reason why we should not confine our 

1 argument within the same limitation ; especially as 
it will greatly narrow the field of controversy ; and 
connect the proof of Christianity with those parts 
only of the Old Testament, which are not open to 


debate ; but which rest upon facts as easy to be 
ascertained, and as little depending upon mere 
conjecture, as any point of history that I am ac- 
quainted with. 

No reader of discernment can open the Old 
Testament, and not immediately see, that the books 
comjDosing it, are not by one and the same hand. 
The original distinctions of style have been a good 
deal concealed, by the dress under which the lan- 
guage appears in our translation ; but even with 
this disadvantage, every one jDorceives that the author 
of Isaiah did not compose the Psalms ; nor the 
writer of the Pentateuch, the books of Kings and 
Chronicles. But whether those several books were 
composed a thousand years before Christ, or only 
six hundred ; whether they are the works of those 
whose names they bear, or of authors altogether 
unknown, are points of no importance to the 
question of the divine inspiration, under which the 
Jews believed tliem to have been written, so long 
as, leaving the historical parts, we confine our atten- 
tion to the prophecies which they contain. 
/^We know that these prophecies, whether real \ 
or pretended, are written in a language, which, at 
the time to which the fulfilment of them refers, had 
been a dead lano^uaofe more than ,five hundred 
years. It is absolutely certain that a , translation 
of them is now extant, which was executed three 
hundred years before the same period. These are 
facts not to be disputed. The only questions, then, 




respecting them, which concern the trutli of Christ- 
ianity are easily stated, and admit of a simple deter- 
; mination : — Were these prophecies distinctly an- 
nounced as predictions of future events, at the time 
when they were delivered ? Were they believed 
to be prophecies, by those among whom they were 
preserved ? Were they understood in any specified 
sense, general or particular ? Were they, in process 
of time, substantially fulfilled ? that is, Did the event 
or events come to pass, according to the interpre- 
tation, which the previous expectation of the Jews, 
had fixed upon them ? / 

Supposing these questions to be answered in the 
affirmative, it will readily be seen, that all other 
questions sink into insignificance. — Who were the 
authors of the several books, in which these pro- 
phecies are written ? In what precise year were 
' they uttered ? Whether this or that, rather than 
the sense which actually was put upon them, would 
/ have been the more natural construction ? — All 
\ these become questions simply of critical curiosity. 
If it can be proved, that they were written many 
generations before the date of their supposed fulfil- 
ment ; if they came to pass in the sense which was 
put upon them, before that period ; and if the events 
predicted were such, as no human knowledge could 
have foreseen, nor any human art or power have 
produced : — in this case, these prophecies were writ- 
ten by divine inspiration; and all the events which 
form tlie subject-matter of them — and that great 


event, more especially, to which they all pointed, 
and in which they ultimately merged — were brought 
about by the direct interposition of a Divine Au- 

I have stated the case hypothetically, not as what 
is true, but as what would be true, and would be 
so considered, in the circumstances supposed. But 
whether true or not, if mankind had been persuaded 
to believe, that the case actually was, as I have here 
stated ; that is to say, if they had admitted the pre- 
mises here assumed, the conclusion would have been 
as irresistible, as if it had been deduced from ma- 
thematical principles. If any error was committed, 
we must seek for it in the premises from which they 
reasoned, and not in the reasoning itself. 

Let us then proceed to examine these pre- 
mises in detail, and see what the evidence was, on 
which the belief of their truth was founded. The 
determination of this question involves no opinion 
about speculative points, but regards only a matter 
of fact ; the proof of which (if there be one) may 
be as easily stated and explained, as that of any 
proposition whatever which depends upon historical 

G 2 





The object of the preceding remarks was to shew, 
that if we assume the prophetical parts of the Old 
Testament to have been written many generations 
before the date of their supposed fulfilment ; and 
that they came to pass, in the very sense which was 
put upon them by the Jews themselves, and had been 
put upon them, long before the appearance of Chris- 
tianity in the world : — in that case, this religion must 
have been a revelation from God. After what has 
been said, I do not think this conclusion will be 
contested ; but whether now contested or not, it is 
certain, that supposing the premises to have been 
established, it would not have been contested in 


the days of tlie Apostles. It is, moreover, certain, 
that it was on the assumption of these premises 
being true, that the Apostles rested the whole 
weight of their preaching. 

In a former Lecture, I had occasion to refer to 
a chapter of Paley, in which he shews that neither 
St. Peter nor St. Stephen in the Acts, nor St. Paul 
in any of his Epistles, have alluded to miracles as 
the ground of their belief; nor, indeed, except on 
a very few occasions, have alluded to them at all. 
The fact is dwelt upon by Paley, at some length ; 
but it is observable, that after discussing the 
silence of the Apostles on this part of the Evi- 
dences, and stating the reasons of it, he does not 
go on to notice the proofs, on which they actually 
did place the argument. He tells us that the 
Apostles took for granted, that the miracles ascribed 
to Christ were known to all their hearers ; but he 
does not add, that the medium of proof by which 
they endeavoured to demonstrate, that those miracles 
had God for their author, was altogether drawn from 
the prophecies of the Old Testament. 

Tliis fact, however, is so plain a feature in the 
New Testament, that it may seem to be a waste of 
time to demonstrate it ; because no one can doubt 
it, who is acquainted with the history of the Apostles 
or their writings. The Apostles do not go about to 
establish the authenticity of the Jewish Scriptures, 
nor to shew their prophetical character. These points 
they take for granted, as matters, which none of 


those with whom they had to reason, would for a 
moment call in question. The invariable purport of 
all their arguments, the end which they kept be- 
fore them, in whatever they said or wrote, was to 
})rove, that the subject of all the various prophecies 

] with which those Scriptures were filled, was the 
Gospel which they preached ; and, so far as a})pears, 

^ this only it was which the Jews denied. 

How clear the Apostles believed this proof to be, 
and how superior to every other, is exemplified in 
the Second Epistle of St. Peter ; where, having 
alluded to the transfiguration of Christ, at which 
he, and James, and John Avere present, when there 
" came a voice," as he says, "from the excellent glory, 
saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well 

7 pleased :" he immediately adds, " but we have a more 
sure word of prophecy." The truth of the transfigura- 
tion depended on the testimony only of two or three 
witnesses ; and the voice which they had heard from 
heaven, might have been an illusion of the senses ; 
but the testimony of prophecy, which he compares 
to " a light shining in a dark place," (as throwing its 
beams into futurity, and making clear what must 
otherwise have remained hidden from human know- 
ledge,) did not, as St. Peter intimates, dejiend on 
his veracity, or that of St. John, or St. James ; Ijut 
on a proof, about which there could be no deception; 
the authority of which was admitted equally on all 

I am jiow merely stating the reasoning (»f tlic 


Apostles. It would be easy to exemplify what I 
have said from passages without number; but the 
matter is too clear to require a detailed illustration. 
If there are any doubts, the means of settling them 
are in every one's hands. And could I take for 
granted, that the writings of those who succeeded 
the Apostles, were as familiarly known as the Christ- 
ian Scriptures, it would be unnecessary to dwell any 
longer on the point. But, if we except professed 
students of divinity, few persons are probably aware, 
that the early Fathers do not, any more than the 
writers of the New Testament, rest their argument 
upon the miracles of Christ. 

The earliest Christian writings, after those con- 
tained in the New Testament, are a collection of 
short pieces, by the cotemporaries, or immediate 
successors of the Apostles ; making together a small 
volume under the title of the Apostolical Fathers. 
That these writings, whether authentic or not, are 
of Apostolic antiquity, is generally admitted. But 
they are purely hortatory, and do not refer to 
questions which concern unbelievers ; and for this 
reason they throw but little light upon the evi- 
dences. The same is likewise true in a greater or 
less degree of Irenaeus, Cyprian, Epiphanius, and 
others among the early Fathers. Their wiitings, 
having been composed for the exclusive use of 
Christians, or for the refutation of heresies, give us 
no knowledge of the arguments employed for the 
conversion of Jews or Pagans; but only of the 


state of the Church, and of the doctrines and dis- 
cipline maintained by its members. The works of 
that age which concern the present inquiry, are those 
which were composed, either in defence of the Gospel, 
or against heathenism. 

Confining ourselves then to such writers of this last 
class, as were born within the two or three first cen- 
turies from the death of Christ, the names which pre- 
sent themselves, are those of Justin INIartyr, Clement 
of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Lactantius, and 
Arnobius. Except Origen, all of these appear to have 
been originally heathens ; and the first observation 
which I have to make is, that while all of them, 
either expressly or by necessary implication, attribute 
their own conversion to the study of the Old Testa- 
ment; not one, if we except Arnobius, appeals to the 
miracles, as the proof of Christ's divine authority. 
They mention the miracles among other facts, as 
substantiating this conclusion ; but the conclusion 
itself, they rest upon the fulfilment of the pro- 
j)hecies, instanced in the progress made by the 
religion which he introduced. There are other 
writers of the same age, of whom fragments re- 
main ; such as Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, 
and the author of the Epistle to Diognetus. Their 
testimony is less decisive, but as far as it goes, it 
will lengthen the list of witnesses to the fact T 
am here alleging. 

In Justin's first apology, there is a long and ela- 
borate statement, in which he produces, through se- 

vl] opinions of the fathers. 89 

veral consecutive chapters, the various passages of the 
Old Testament, in which the person of Christ, and 
the doctrines which he taught, and the success of 
his preaching, are foreshown. And he prefaces the 
statement in the following words : " Lest any one 
should object that there is nothing to hinder, but 
that he who is called Christ among us, should have 
been only a man, and born of a man; and have 
worked by magical arts those wonders which we 
attribute to miraculous powers, (^a-yt/cy reyvy ag 
Xs-yojLtEv Suvojuag TreTrotrj/cevai :) and therefore, consider 
him to have been the Son of God ; we will pro- 
ceed to shew, that our opinions are not founded 
on what persons have said, but on the neces- 
sity of believing that which was foretold before 
it came to pass ; inasmuch as we have witnessed, 
and do still witness with our own eyes, the fulfil- 
ment of those predictions : which is a demonstration 
which I think will appear even to you, most true 
and certain \" 

I am not aware of any passages in the writings of 
TertuUian or Origen, directly ascribing the proof of the 
divine authority of the miracles of Christ, to the pro- 
phecies relating to him, as Justin would seem to do in 
the above extract ; but abundance may be adduced, in 
which the argument rests solely on this single testi- 
mony ; while I do not remember a case in which it 

> Apol. I. §. 30. 


is made to rest on the former. In more places than 
one. Oriofen charofes Celsus with unfairness in his 
objections against the miracles of Christ, because he 
must have known, says he, that it was not from 
them, that the Christians drew their proof of his 
divine authority, but from the prophecies of the 

Old Testament: — ovk oiB ottwc to /.dyicxTOv Trept TTfQ 
avaraatioi; tov I»/(tou Kurai, log on Trooe^rjrtu^/; vtto 
T(ov irapa lov^a'ioig Trpo^ijrtuv, it a pair 'mirzi e/cwv. 

A still more remarkable passage, however, to 
the same purpose is to be found in Lactantius, in 
the fifth Book of his Div. Inst. c. 3. " But Apol- 
lonius, it is said, never gave himself out to be Sk~ 
god, on account of the miracles which he wrought : 
— assuredly not. Nor should we have believed 
Christ to have been a God, had he merely per- 
formed miracles. But learn, that we do not be- 
lieve him to have been God, solely for this reason ; 
but because we have seen all things fulfilled in 
him, which the prophets have foretold. He did 
miracles, it is true ; and we should have supposed 
him to have been a magician (as you now think, 
and as the Jews formerly thought,) if all the pro- 
phets, with one consent, had not predicted that he 
would do such things." — ''■ Disce iffitur, si quid tibi 
coQ'di est, 11071 solum idcirco a nobis Deum crediUnn 
Christum, quia mirabilia fecit, scd quia o'ediimis in 
CO facta esse omnia qua' nobis communicata sunt rati- 
cinia Prophetarum. Fecit mirabilia : maqum pufas- 


semits, ut et vos nunc putatis et Judcei tunc putaverunt, 
si non ilia ipsa facturum Christum, Prophetfe omnes 
uno spiritu prcedicasserit" 

St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom lived too 
late to be brought as witnesses in the question ; 
but their opinion is of weight as a confirmative 
authority. And as the point I am now illustrating, 
has no reference to the value of the proof from mi- 
racles, compared with that from prophecy, abstract- 
edly considered, but only to the question, — What 
was the relative place which was assigned to the 
Old and New Testament, in the view taken of the 
Evidences, in the early ages of the Church ? — there 
is a passage from Augustine which I gladly ex- 
tract, if it be only to show that in these remarks 
upon the reasoning of the early Fathers, I am 
not stating any thing new or paradoxical. " To 
say, that the Hebrew prophecies are not fit evi- 
dences for bringing the heathen to a belief on 
Christ, is ridiculous folly," says St. Augustine; "seeing 
that all the heathen nations have been brouorht to 
the belief of Christ by the Hebrew prophecies." — 
" Dicere autem, non esse aptam gentibus HebrcBam pro- 
pJietiam ut credant in Christum, cum videat omnes 
gentes per Hebrceam prophetiam credere in Christum, 
lidicula insania estK" 

The authorities above produced, are suflRcient 
to justify the assertion here made by Augustine; 

' Contra Faust, xiii. c. 2. 


it would otherwise be an easy task to enlarge 
them to almost any extent ; not indeed by direct 
quotations, but by shewing, in every case, what the 
reasoning was, which they actually employed, when- 
ever the truth of Christianity was the point at issue. 
They do not slur over the miracles of Christ as 
if they did not believe them, or supposed that 
they would be denied — far from it; but assuming 
the question to be, not the truth of the facts, but 
the explanation of them — it is to the Old Testa- 
ment they uniformly appeal, as shewing that nothing- 
had been asserted or was believed of Christ, or had 
been taught by him, without the warranty of long 
I ^ preceding prophecies. But the question is not, as 
to the use made by the Fathers, of the Old Testa- 
ment ; but as to the soundness of the premises, 
from which they reasoned. To this point, then, our 
attention must now be directed. 

The obvious and popular objection to the evidence 
of prophecy, is the vague and indeterminate lan- 
guage in which, sometimes the subject-matter of the 
prediction, and sometimes the prediction itself, is 
couched. In the case of the heathen oracles, their 
amphibolical obscurity was a matter of proverbial 

observation : o\ •^prjerjUoXoyoi ov tr poopitovrai TroTf, was 

a saying of Aristotle, often quoted. In truth, it 
is a difficulty not peculiar to false prophecies, but 
in some degree, inherent in the nature of the 
/ When the subject of a prophecy is some specific 


event, such as was the destruction of Jerusalem, or 
the time of the sojourning of the people of Israel in 
Egypt, there is nothing to hinder the language of it 
from being plain and unambiguous. But unless the 
intent and meaning of the prediction be a matter 
of fact, or something equally determinate, a certain 
degree of verbal obscurity can hardly be avoided. How 
was the person of an individual to be distinguished, 
so that his character, as a messenger from God, 
might immediately be known, without the possibility 
of imposition ? And still more, how were tmths 
and propositions hereafter to be revealed, so to be 
foretold, as that when revealed, no doubt should exist 
as to their divine authority ? 

Accordingly I do not mean to say that the 
prophecies of the Old Testament, if separately 
weighed and examined, are all of them so clearly 
expressed, as not to admit of any diversity of con- 
struction. On the contrary, I believe that if the 
book were placed in the hands of a person for the 
first time, and his opinion asked as to the purport 
of all the oracles, real or pretended, with which it 
abounds, he would be very much at a loss what 
explanation to give ; certainly he would be unable to 
render an exact and detailed account of their mean- 
ing. But this will only render the fact the more 
remarkable — especially if we consider the subject of 
those prophecies — if it should appear, that an exact 
and detailed tradition has existed among the Jews, 
apparently from time immemorial, both as to the 


general signification of their prophetical books, and 
as to the particular meaning of detached passages ; 
and tliat point by point, and almost word for word, 
this traditional interpretation was actually realized. 

It is common to hear objections raised against 
the manner in which passages from the Old Testa- 
ment have been applied, by the writers of the 
New. Sometimes their interpretations are said to 
be forced ; sometimes they are accused of having 
mistaken the sense ; and in a great number of in- 
stances, of having considered expressions and allu- 
sions as prophetic, which are stamped with no such 
character. Much valuable learning has been shewn 
in vindicating the Apostles from these charges ; 
but the proper answer is to be found, not in the 
critical exposition of the i)assages, but in that which 
is an historical statement : namely, that, with the 
exception of certain passages, which I shall hereafter 
state, and which are all of one particular kind, in 
no instance that I am aware of, (though I have ex- 
amined the question with some attention) do the 
Apostles ever apply any passages from the Old 
Testament to Jesus Christ, except those which were 
regarded as prophetical by the Jews of that day, 
and had been so regarded long before ; and which, 
moreover, had by them been always interpreted of 
the Messiah. Whatever difference of opinion may 
now exist on this point, between the Jews and 
Christians, has arisen since the introduction of 
Christianity. At the time when it appeared, there 


was no controversy as to the meaning of the 
passages which the Apostles adduced ; but only as 
to the reasons they assigned for applying that mean- 
ins: to Jesus of Nazareth. 

This, I think, is evident, upon the very face of the 
narrative parts of the New Testament, no less than 
in almost every one of the Epistles. There is not 
so much as a hint, in the former, of any contradic- 
tion being given, either to our Saviour himself, or 
afterwards to the Apostles, as misapplying the Scrip- 
tures ; and with respect to the Epistles, it will 
be seen, upon examination, that except we sup- 
pose an agreement of opinion, up to a certain point, 
between the writers of them, and the Jews, in re- 
spect of the general sense of the quotations al- 
leged by the former, their arguments will often not 
have common sense. While, on the other hand, 
the absence of any discussion, in proof of the pro- 
phetical character of the passages they allege, and 
their total silence as to any doubt or contrariety 
of interpretation, would seem to furnish as strong 
a proof, as any negative inference can do, that in 
the premises from which both parties reasoned, no 
doubt or contrariety of sentiments at- that time pre- 

But we are not left to inference, or to merely 
negative proofs of this important fact ; nor to the 
evidence of writings which have been composed by 
Christians. There are Jewish documents remaining, 
about whose authenticity, no question has ever been 



raised on any side, wliich leave us in no uncertainty 
as to the belief of the Jews, at the time when Christi- 
anity first appeared, on all the points then at issue 
between them. 

The Jewish writers may be divided into two 
classes : — those who lived before, and those who 
have lived since, the compilation of the Talmud. 
The latter, though often valuable, as authorities for 
explaining the text of the Bible, and the manners 
and customs to which it refers, do not possess any 
sort of authority, in the determination of points 
of controversy relating to the sense of the prophe- 
cies. The question is not, what is the interpreta- 
tion of Maimonides, or Joseph Albo, or Kimchi, 
or writers of a comparatively recent date, whose 
opinions have been in a great measure guided by 
a desire to o])pose the Christian interpretation ; 
but what, in each instance, was the interpre- 
tation which was affixed by the' Jewish Church, in 
the age of the Apostles. Nothing can be moire 
plainly marked, than the change which has been 
effected in the opinions of the Jews, by the estab- 
lishment of the Gospel : so much so, that whenever 
we find two senses of any passage, one of which is 
more, and the other less favourable to the Christian 
scheme, it may be concluded almost with certainty, 
that the former is the ancient, and the latter, the 
modern interpretation. 

Omitting then all notice of modern authorities, 
and attending only to the ancient, I think that it 


may be laid down, as a proposition to which there 
are not more than one or two exceptions, (and those 
exceptions admitting of an explanation which will 
be found to strengthen the rule,) that the sense 
which was put upon the several prophecies adduced 
by the Apostles, as we find them stated in the New 
Testament, was the same as had been put upon them 
by the Jewish nation in general, and as was then 
taught in their synagogues. 

Except the Targums, or Chaldee Paraphrases of 
Onkelos on the Pentateuch, and Jonathan on the 
Prophets, there are no Jewish writings extant, the 
composition of which is supposed to have been so 
early as the Christian epoch. Though the tradi- 
tions, which have been put together in the Mischna, 
belong to a much earlier date, yet the book itself 
was composed in the second century. The com- 
mentary on the Mischna, or, as it is called, the 
Gemara, was compiled considerably later; and the 
contents of it are of various ages : some before 
Christ, and some as late as the fifth and sixth 

Next to the Targums, the work most mportant 
to our present purpose, is the Sohar of R. Simeon 
Ben Jochai, who flourished early in the second 
century. This book is held in the highest venera- 
tion by the Jews, and is the foundation of their 
Cabbala. The subject of it is, the coming of 
the Messiah, and the things which will happen 
upon the earth in those days, as deducible from 




the prophecies ; and so nearly do the deductions 
approach to the construction, put upon the Okl 
Testament by the writers of the New, that Schoett- 
genius came to the conclusion, that the author, 
though a Jew by birth and by profession, must in 
his secret mind have been a Christian. 

In addition to the above-mentioned sources of in- 
formation, concerning the traditional opinions of the 
ancient synagogue, are the Rabbinical commentaries 
on the several books of the Old Testament, called 
Libri Midraschici. The authors of these books are 
supposed to have lived, some of them before Christ, 
and others, successively in the second, and third, and 
fourth centuries. 

Whatever question might be raised, as to the 
reliance to be placed upon the authority of these 
several books, on the part of Christians, in in- 
stances where it pressed against them ; yet the 
most scrupulous weigher of evidence may dismiss 
all jealousy and suspicion from his mind, whenever 
the bearing of it is in their favour. Although the 
Jews have, in a great many cases, ojienly thrown 
aside the testimony of their early teachers ; no 
instance has ever been produced where they have 
done so, except for the purpose of shutting out the 
arguments adduced by Christians. To suppose that 
they would, under any circumstances, depart from 
tradition in a case where it would ojien a door to 
those arguments, is as contrary to probability as 
any suj)position that could be proposed. " Who- 


ever," says the author of the Sohar (quoted by 
Schoettgenius) " shall propose any interpretations of 
the word, except such as he has heard from the 
mouth of the Rabbins, him, shall the holy, blessed 
God punish in the world to come: and when his 
soul shall seek to enter into its habitation, they shall 
cause him to be cast forth from among the number 
of the living." 

Certainly in many instances, the spirit of this ad- 
monition has been transgressed by the Jews, in 
silently dropping many doctrines and traditions of 
their church, which afforded a handle to their adver- 
saries; but I am persuaded we might safely say, 
that not so much as one opinion, from the days of 
Christ till the present, has knowingly been engrafted 
upon their ancient traditions, the tendency of which 
was to confirm the Christian scheme. 

Having offered these few brief remarks in ex- 
planation of the testimony by which I mean to 
shew, that the prophecies of the Old Testament, if 
fulfilled at all, have been fulfilled, — not in a sense 
which was discovered after the event, or was re- 
ceived only by the disciples of Jesus Christ, and 
which was not known before, or, if known, was re- 
jected by their adversaries : but have been fulfilled 
in a sense, which, whether agreeable to the prin- 
ciples of criticism or not, was agreeable to the mean- 
ing and import of the several prophecies, in the 
opinion of the Jews of that time : — having, I say, 
given some account of the data upon which I hope 



to establish the truth of this proposition, I shall 
now proceed to the proofs on which it depends. 

The authority on which these proofs will rest, are 
— first, the Tar^ms, or Jewish Paraphrases ; and 
secondly, two books which throw a light, as curious 
as important, upon the ancient doctrines of the 
Jewish Church. These books are the Pugio Fidei 
Ad versus Mauros et Judaios, written by a Spanish 
monk before the invention of printing, of the name 
of Raymundus Martini, and edited by J. B. Carpzof, 
with the notes of De Voisin, 1687 ; and the Horse 
Hebraicse et Talmudicae of Schoettgenius, printed 
at Dresden, 1733: a work not sufficiently known, 
but which never ought to be off the table of the 
theological student. Every statement made in each 
of these works, is supported by references, in the 
words of the several authorities adduced ; and I 
have found very few instances where the quotations 
do not bear out the conclusions. To the fidelity 
of the quotations I am unable to speak ; tliough 
many of them would have tempted me to take 
that trouble, as being beyond measure surprising 
from the pen of a Jew ; but Augustinus Justi- 
nianus, in the preface to his edition of the Victoria 
contra Judajos, by Porchetus, Paris, 1 520, tells us that 
he has verified every one of the quotations of Ray- 
mundus Martini, and can bear a full testimony to 
their fidelity. He tells us that Martini was a monk 
of the order to which he himself belonged ; and 
originally, as he believes, a Jew. Indeed no one, 


as he says, who was not of their nation, or who had 
not the assistance of a Rabbin, could have obtained 
such access to the secret treasures of the Jews, as 
the Pugio Fidei indicates. He spoke from his own 
knowledge, having, as he tells us, experienced the 
difficulty : " Ewpertus sum quantis sit opus labcytibus, 
vigiliis, sumptibus, aud'iliis denique vokntibus, Hebrcs- 
onim penetrare secreta. His tamen oimiibus ipse ut- 
cunque instructus, legi in HebrcBorum monumentis 
bonam partem eontm qucB citantur a Raymundo, ut 
mdlus reliqims sit dubitationis locus de allegationum 
fide; possumus rei hujus locupletissimum apud unum- 
quemqiie fidem facere : atque testitnonio libroi'um wide 
desumpta Jkec pretiosa supellex ; quos fere omnes miJii 
comparavi : observoque apud me perinde ac regis mar- 
garitas ac gemmas^ 

In order to keep the proofs which I shall bring 
forward, within a reasonable compass, I shall confine 
them to a fixed part of the Old Testament. By far 
the largest number of the passages alleged by the 'i 
writers of the New Testament, are found in two^^ 
books, viz. Isaiah and the Psalms. Let us then ) 
take these and examine, one by one, every passage 
quoted from them by the Apostles, as applicable to 
Christ. Next let us turn to the two works just 
mentioned, to see whether the same passages were 
referred by the ancient synagogue to the Messiah. 
Whenever this shall appear to have been the case, it 
will be evident that the sense put upon them by the 
Apostles, was not of their own " private interpreta- 


tion," but was that which the nation at large had 
been instructed to receive. 

Ps. ii. 1, 2. 6. 8, quoted Acts iv. 25. 28 ; xiii. 33. 
Referred to the Messiah in Melchita, fol. 3, 3. 
Sohar. Gen. Midrash. Tehillim. 

Ps. viii. 4. 6, quoted Heb. ii. 6. 9. Referred to 
the Messiah in Tikkune Sohar. c. 70. 

Ps. xvi. 8. 11, quoted Acts ii. 25. 32. Referred 
to the Messiah in Bereschith rabba, sect. 88. 

Ps. xxii. 1. 8. 16. 18, quoted Matthew xxvii. 46. 
Referred to the Messiah in IMidrash. Tehillim. Pe- 
sikta Rabbathi in Talkut Simeoni. fol. 56. 4. Soliar. 
Numer. fol. 100. 

Ps. xl. 6. 8, quoted Heb. x. 5. 10. Referred to 
the Messiah in Midrash. Ruth, fol. 43. 3, 4. 

Ps. xlv. 1. 7, quoted Hebrews i. 8, 9. Rom. ix. 5. 
Referred to the Messiah in Targum. Sohar ; and 
also by the modern Jewish commentators. 

Ps. Ixviii. 18, 19, quoted Ephes. iv. 8. Referred 
to the Messiah by R. Obadja Haggaon, cited by 
Cartwright. Schemoth rabba, sect. 35. 

Ps. Ixix. 21, quoted Matt, xxvii. 34. 48 —Gall 
and vinegar given to Christ to drink. I have found 
no Jewish authority for the application of this par- 
ticular fact to the Messiah, either in Schoettgenius 
or the Pugio Fidei ; but the Psalm itself is applied 
to him generally by several writers quoted by 

Ps. ex. 1. 4, quoted Heb. v. 5, 6; vi. 19, 20. 
Compare Sohar. Gen. fol. 35. Sohar. Num. fol. 99. 


Midrash. Tehillini ad loc. Targum. Sohar. chadasli, 
fol 42. Gen. fol. 42. 29. 

Ps. cxviii. 22, 23. Compare Sohar. Gen. fol. 118. 
Idem Numer. fol. 86, et passim. 

The above are the only psalms to which I can find 
any plain allusion in the New Testament ; and if we 
may trust to the references given by Schoettgen 
and Raymundus Martini, they are all of them, either 
generally or particularly, applied to the times of the 
Messiah by the old Rabbinical writers. We are n 
not, however, to suppose, that those here quoted, / 
are the only psalms which tlie ancient Jewish church ) 
so explained; on the contrary, many, not adduced I 
in the New Testament, might be added. The prin-5^ 
ciple of interpretation adopted by the Jews would 
appear to have been very simple : — it was, that, 
whenever any expressions were found in the pro- 
phetical writings, conveying a meaning, too high 
and comprehensive to admit of an historical ap- \ 
plication to known jjersons or events, such expres- / 
sions should be referred, either to the Messiah him- 
self, or to his promised kingdom. As to double 
senses of the prophecies, of which Grotius and 
Warburton talk, and other writers after them, it N 
may be doubted whether such a notion ever en- \ 
tered into the minds of the ancient Jews. Their i 
rule seems to have been founded on the oppo- / 
site supposition : that no prophecy could have two 
senses ; and, therefore, that when the literal sense of 
the inspired writer afforded no intelligible meaning, 






the words were to be understood prophetically. In 
fact, if it be once allowed, that a prophecy is capable 
/ of more than one true interpretation, where are we to 
fix the limit ? The danger of such a principle needs 
not to be pointed out ; and except it be founded on 
stronger reasons than are given by Grotius, in his 
^ commentary on St. Matt. ch. i. it is as unfounded as 
it is dangerous. — But to return to our subject. 

Of the sixty-six chapters which compose the Book 
; of Isaiah, all, except fifteen, are referred by one 
Jewish writer or another to the times of the Mes- 
siah ; but in the New Testament, I think that 
, there are not quotations from more than sixteen 
or seventeen. 

Is. ii. 1. 5. Conversion of the Gentiles. John x. 16. 
Acts xxviii. 28. These passages are applied to the 
Messiah in the Targum, and generally by Jewish 
commentators, both ancient and recent. 

Is. vii. 14. The miraculous birth of Christ, "/^oc 
^ ^ ^ '"'^ ; caput^' says Schoettgen, ^''JudcBi antiquioi'eSi ex iiiscitid, 
juniores vero, ex malitid neglexerunV I shall take 
occasion, in my next Lecture, to offer some re- 
marks upon this important prophecy, which will, 
I hope, both explain the ignorance of the ancient 
Jews, and vindicate the present, from the charge 
here preferred by Schoettgen ; but in the mean 
time, it is suflUcient to say, that this jn-ophecy stands 
out almost singly, as one which the Apostles have 
ai)plied to Christ on their own authority. 

Is. viii. 13, 14. Christ, a stone of stumbling. Rom. 


ix. 33. 1 Peter ii. 7, 8. Applied to the Messiah in 
Sanhedrim, fol. 38. Breschith rabba, sect. 42. fol. 

Is. ix. " Unto us a child is born." This very im- 
portant pro])hecy is referred to the Messiah in the 
Targum ; and it is generally so understood by Chris- 
tians. Nevertheless, I cannot satisfy myself that any 
allusion to it is to be found in the New Testament. -K^ 

Is. xviii. 16. Christ, the chief corner-stone. 1 Pet. 
ii. 3. 6. Applied to the Messiah in Sanhedrim, fol. 
98. 1. Talkut Simeoni, i. fol. 49. 3. Breschith 
Kezara citante Raymundo Martini in Pug. Fid. ii. 4. 
p. 313. 

Is. XXX. 3, 4. 15. Miracles of the Gospel and 
effusion of the Spirit. Acts ii. 4. Rom. xi. 18. 
Compare Janchuma, fol. 1. 2. Debarim rabba, sect. 
6. fol. 258. 2. Sohar, chadash, fol. 89. 3. 

Is. xxxi. Times of the Messiah. New Testament 
passim. See Pesikta rabbathi, fol. 29. 3. Tan- 
chuma. Talkut Simeoni, i. fol. 157. 1. Sohar. Exod. 
fol. 34. col. 134. 

Is. xl. John the forerunner of Christ. This chapter 
is referred to the Messiah by the present Jews, as 
well as by the ancient. See Kimchi. A ben Esra. 
Pesikta in Talkut Simeoni, ii. fol. 49. 1. as quoted 
by Schoettgenius in loco. 

Is. xlii. 1. 7. 16. New Testament /?am7w. Applied 
to Christ in the Targum, and by all the present 

Is. liii. The whole chapter is referred to the Mes- 


siali in the New Testament, as it also is in the Tar- 
gum ; and in the Sohar passim. 

Is. Iv. 1. 5. Christ, the living water. John iv. 10. 
14. Schoettgen quotes from Galatinus, Breschith 
rabba ad Genes, xlix. 14 ; but the passage is not found, 
he tells us, in the editions which he has consulted. 

Is. Ix. Glory of Christ's kingdom. New Testament 
passim. So applied in the Targum, and by the 
ancient Jewish Church passim. 

Is. Ixi. Christ, anointed by the Spirit. Luke iv. 16. 
Matthew, iii. 16, 17. This chapter is referred to the 
Messiah by the modern Jewish commentators, as 
well as the ancient. 

If it would not be tedious, it would be a task of 
no difficulty, to go through the remaining passages 
quoted from the Old Testament by the Apostles, in 
confirmation of Christ's divine commission. They are, 
I believe, not more than between twenty and thirty ; 
and with the single exception of Job xix. 25, (about 
which the Jews, both of the present and of former 
times are silent,) in every instance, the authority of 
the ancient Synagogue may be produced, in con- 
firmation of the interpretation the Apostles affixed. 

With respect to the more important of the pro- 
phecies which they allege : — all those, that is to say, 
which the Jews considered, as the " terms " by which 
the person of the Messiah would be known, and, 
from which, the time, beyond which he was not to 
be looked for, was to be determined : — we can j)ro- 
duce the authority of the Targums in favour of the 


Christian interpretation. And in the present question 
this is the highest of all authorities ; because these 
books were known to the people at large, and in fact 
were the channels, through which all their knowledge 
of the original Scriptures was derived. Daniel, in 
his prophecy of the seventy weeks refers by name to 
the Messiahj and Gen. iii. 15, Numbers xxiv. 17, 
Haggai ii. ^7. .9. Mai. iii. 1. Micah v. 2, Zech. ix. 
9, are like wise referred to him in the same manner, 
by all authorities, ancient and modern. 

It is not necessary to enter into any contro- ~ 
versy in this part of the argument. I am not / 
saying that the ancient Jews were right or wrong, 
or that the Apostles were right or wrong. I am 
simply stating a matter of fact : — that whether right 
or wrong, the construction put upon the prophecies 
by both parties was the same : the difference be- 
tween them, not regarding the reality or general 
meaning of the prophecies, adduced by the latter, 
but only the proof of their having been fulfilled. 

The preceding remarks have been built upon the \ 
general rule ; but it must not be dissembled that many ( 
and important excej^tions to it may be produced. The 
Apostles quote passages from the Old Testament to 
show, — that Christ was to be born of a virgin ; that he N 
was to rise from the dead : that he was to drink srall 
and vinegar ; that his garments were to be parted ; 
that he was to be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. 
These and some other facts are adduced by the 
Apostles, as fulfilments of i)roi)hecies ; and some of 



[ them, doubtless, are of much importance. But I^ 
have been able to find no proof that those passages 
were referred to the Messiah by the ancient Jewish 
Church ; and yet, if unexplained, they would seem to 
be sufficient in number, to overturn the general pro- 
position which I have laid down. But exceptions, 
which are founded upon specific reasons, instead of 
overturning, will sometimes confirm a rule. We 
have now to inquire, whether in the instance of 
the prophecies here adverted to, any such reasons 
can be shown, for their having been withdrawn from 
the general rule which I have just now asserted. 
The consideration of this point will furnish the 
subject of my next Lecture. 



As every apparent deviation from the course of na- 
ture is not necessarily a miracle, so neither is every 
prediction to be called a prophecy. Many things 
may seem in our eyes to be deviations from the course / 
of nature, which are nevertheless in strict accordance \ 
with its laws. So likewise many things spoken at / 
random may come true by chance ; many things may 
come true, which human foresight was able to divine ; 
and some predictions have a tendency to fulfil them- / 
selves. Of such prophecies as these, many, no doubt, 
in all ages, may have been fulfilled. But there is no 
instance recorded in profane history, of any prophecy 
having come to pass, from which all and each of 
these suppositions can be excluded. History indeed 
is full of fabulous miracles ; but if we except the Old 


Testament, there is not any case, eitlier in ancient or 
modern times, in wliich the fulfilment of a prophecy 
has been so much as pretended ; meaning by this 
word, not a mere blind coincidence, but a case in 
which an event, which no human sagacity could 
have anticipated, nor any combination of human 
means have brought to pass, came true in accord- 
ance with a previous expectation. 

It is the previous expectation which shuts out all 
dispute, and constitutes what would seem to be the 
case of a perfect prophecy. But it is plain that this 
case can only happen, when the subject-matter of the 
prophecy is a contingent event ; by which I mean an 
event, the causes of which, as was just now said, 
are placed not only beyond all human calculation, 
but also beyond all human power and control. For 
otherwise the previous expectation becomes an occa- 
sion of doubt and suspicion, as opening the door to 
a suo'^estion of fraud or collusion. There are cases, 
in which even a mere knowledge of the existence of 
a prophecy, would be liable to this inconvenience ; 
and when the proof of its fulfilment would be difticult 
or impossible, except on a supposition that it had 
previously been either unknown altogether, or mis- 

It is plain then, that if we were examining, not 
an insulated prediction, but a scheme of pro])hecy, 
in which, as subordinate to one great and i)rin('ipal 
event, many others had been predicted, some con- 
tingent, and some not so, but depending upon known 


causes, the hypothesis would require, that in tlio 
latter class of events there should have been no ])re- 
ceding expectation. In many cases it would be 
necessary, that even a knowledge of the prophecy 
itself should have been kept back. For there is a 
large class of facts which depend upon the voluntary 
actions of human agents ; and which men may agree 
together either to bring about or to hinder. There is 
another class of facts, the truth of which it may be 
difficult to prove or disprove ; and which men, there- 
fore, may simulate, though they did not really happen ; 
or if they did, may deny. In any of these cases, the 
supposition of a previous expectation, instead of de- 
monstrating a Divine Providence, would cause the 
proof of it to be uncertain. It would not, therefore, 
impeach the pretensions of a scheme of prophecy to 
be considered as of divine authority, that many of the 
predictions which it contained had not been under- 
stood until after the event, provided this had occurred, 
enly in the instance of such events as I have here been 
speaking of. If in the case of all other events, that 
is to say, of all events depending solely upon the 
■will and power of God, it should appear that there 
had been, not only an antecedent knowledge, but, 
as regards the general subject of the supposed scheme, 
a full and unequivocal expectation — the absence of 
such previous knowledge and expectation, if it was 
confined to events which were not contingent, instead 
of detracting from the proof of a Divine Providence, 
would confirm it: by at once excluding tlie supposition 



of chance or blind necessity. It would demonstrate 

the agency of an intelligent Cause. Such a scheme 

( must have been a concerted scheme, as being plan- 

i ned upon a rule, the observation of which necessarily 

\ implied forethought and design. 

Bearing these remarks in mind, let us now proceed 
to examine the prophecies of the Old Testament, 
under the two heads here laid down, of perfect and 
imperfect ; and observe whether, in adjusting the 
events foretold, the distinction which I have pointed 
out between contingent and non-contingent facts, 
has been respectively preserved. We have seen that 
the prophecies applied to Christ in the New Testa- 
ment, are, with certain stated exceptions, the same 
as had been applied to the promised JMessiah, by the 
Jewish Synagogue ; but there are deviations from 
this rule, some passages being referred to Christ by 
the Apostles, which had not been so understood be- 
fore. Distinguishing these last, as cases of imperfect 
prophecy, the question is, whether their use was acci- 
dental only, or whether it was regulated by the 
nature of the facts, as just now explained. It is on 
this point that the value of these prophecies, as 
evidences of revelation, will depend. 

Assuming, for the sake of argument, the divine 
authority of the Gospel, it will not, I think, be 
doubted, after what has been said in a former Lecture, 
that an exi)ectation of it, on the part of mankind, 
before it was revealed, would greatly have facilitated 
its reception. It was therefore perfectly consistent 


with the belief of its having come from God, that 
prophecies relating to it, should have been designedly 
spread abroad, and have been generally understood 
in some sense, not incompatible with its true mean- 
ing. This remark will include all predictions re- 
lating to the nation of the promised Messenger, to 
his lineage, his birth-place, the generation of man- 
kind in which he was to appear, and so on. These 
facts are all of them contingent in their nature ; and 
the general object of such prophecies, would not have 
been so completely answered, by the knowledge 
of them having been kept back, as by its having 
been long before communicated. But if we examine 
the life of Christ, we shall immediately see, that 
there is another description of marks and incidents, 
which if made the subject of prophecy, would be in 
the opposite case ; and in which the Divine purpose, 
for the reason just now stated, would seem, as plainly, 
to require obscurity and concealment. 

For example : had those prophecies, in which the \ 
violent death of the Messiah is foreshewn and the 
exact time when it was to take place, been under- 
stood literally by the Jews, they would not have put 
Jesus Christ to death, in disproof of his pretensions, 
and as a means of undeceiving the people. When 
pressed by Pilate " to let Jesus go !" they " denied 
the Holy One and the Just," and " desired a mur- 
derer to be granted unto them ;" " but," adds St. 
Peter, " I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as 
did also your rulers." ^^ I'U.^i^ 


In like manner, had they known beforehand, that 
those passages in the Psahns, wliere it is said " they 
gave me gall and vinegar to drink," " they pierced 
my hands and my feet," " they parted my garments 
among them," were prophecies referring to the man- 
ner in which the Messiah would be put to death, — it 
is clear that they would have been careful not to 
cause their fulfilment in the person of our Lord, 
at the very moment when they were punishing him 
as an impostor. 

The same remark will apply to the thirty pieces 
of silver, which had been given to Judas Iscariot, as 
the price of his treachery, and with which, when it 
was returned to the rulers of the people, they bought 
the potter's field. Had that passage of Zechariah 
been understood by them, as a prophecy relating to 
their Messiah, in which he says, " And the Lord said 
unto me. Cast it unto the potter : a goodly price 
that I was prized at by them. And I took the 
thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in 
the house of the Lord '," — it would have been easy 
for the Jews, humanly speaking, to have defeated its 
intention. This is not merely a possible supposition. 
The place of the Messiah's birth was a contingent 
fact ; and St. Matthew tells us, that Ilerod attempted 
to defeat the prophecy from which it w'as known, 
by putting to death all the children of two years 
old and uiuler, who had been born in the neighbour- 

' Ch. xi. 13. 


hood of Bethlehem. The above propliecies rehite 
to events of a collateral kind, and not to matters 
of fundamental proof; but there are others of the 
very first importance, which come under the same 
class. The seventh chapter of Isaia^i (v. 14), where 
the miraculous conception of Christ is believed to 
have been predicted, may be mentioned as an 
example, in this also, the supposition of a previous 
expectation, instead of strengthening the evidence 
of a divine authority, would have vitiated the 

There is perhaps no prophecy of the Old Testa- 
ment, which has attracted so much attention as thi^^-ia**!.^ 7. 
or has been the subject of as much discussion. 
Almost every writer upon this part of the evidences, 
from Justin Martyr down to Bishop Chandler, has 
placed it in the foremost rank. The latter indeed 
considers the proof of this passage having been a pro- 
phecy, and having received its fulfilment in Christ, 
to be so plain, that he regards the absence of any 
notice of it in the Jewish writings, as an evidence 
of the dishonesty of their doctors : " Many things," 
says the Bishop, " were said in the ancient Targums, 
that do not appear in the present copies. And the 
same is true of other Jewish books. These writings 
were entirely in the Jews' own possession a few 
centuries ago. And as the Jews became acquainted 
with the state of their controversy with the Chris- 
tians, it was a temptation to expunge such glaring 



passages, as would give advantage to the Cliristians 
and were of no use to themselves, when they were 
sure not to be found out." 
s/ w£~ I am not aware of any legitimate reason for be- 
i lieving, that there is the smallest truth in this 
] sweeping charge against the Jewish doctors. But in 
the present instance, there is positive proof to the 
contrary ; inasmuch as it appears from Justin, that the 
V Jews, in his time, interpreted the passage, as they do 
( now, not of the Messias, but of Hezekiah. It is true, 
( I f nothing can be more tame or less seemingly probable 
than this sense. Ahaz, it appears, was desired to ask 
a sign of God ; and upon his refiisal to do so, the 
])roj)liet tells him, that the Lord himself will give 
liim a sign. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and 
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Now 
Hezekiah was never called Immanuel. And if the 
sign to be given to Ahaz, was simply, as the Jews 
say, that a young woman should bear a son, who 
was to be distinguished from other men, in no way 
besides, the passage, as Justin tells Trypho, ajipears 
' to be devoid of all meaning. It is, however, incon- 
testably certain that no authority can be found, in 
any Jewish writing, either ancient or modern, for 
the interpretation put upon this passage by the 
Apostles. I do not say that there is no authority 
for asserting the miraculous generation of the pro- 
mised Messiah ; but that there is none, as deduciblo 
from this particular passage : — for it is important to 


observe that the notion itself, which the prophecy 
conveyed, was certainly not new to the Jews. 

It is plain, as well from their own writings as \/ \/ 
from the Gospels, that they did not expect the birth 
of the Messiah to be in the way of ordinary men. 
" Who shall declare his generation ?" said Isaiah ; 
and accordingly we read in St. John vii. " Do the 
rulers know that this is the very Christ ? Howbeit 
we know this man whence he is, but when Christ -'4^^'^ 
Cometh no man knoweth whence he is." iThus we are -^ 

told by Lightfoot, that it is a question often mooted 
in the Talmud, " whether he was to come from the 
livinof or the dead." There seems also to have been a 
surmise, that the Messiah was to be without a father. 
Diciit R. Beracliijah quod Deus sanctus, benedidm, dicit 
Israeli, Vos diicistis coram me, Pupilli facti siimiis, sine J // ^/l' 7 
patre. — Redemptor qiioque quern ego stare faciam ex <^*-^^ 'z 
nobis, sme^patre erit, sicut dictum est \ " iLcce vir, <^:^s^U-*La^ 
Germen nomen ejus, et de sub se germinahit ;" et sic dicit L^c/^*^*-^ 
Esaias^, " Et ascendit ut virgidtum coram eo." Super ^ x» 4^ 
eo David quoque dicit ', " EcV matrice aurorce tibi ros • '• \ ^ 
juvcntutis tuee." So far the gloss, says Raymundus ^^ a. ^^ 
Martini : observino: that in these words the Jews '^f*' **^ "^ ' 
referred to the manner of Christ's generation. /X^/tf Z**^ 

Now surely, if the Jews speak of the Messiah as !^ /'•►A^ 
one who was to be born " without a father ;" and — * „ * 
describe his generation under the similitude of a y /^ 

branch, or a root that was to spring up of itself out 

' Zech. vi. 12. ' Ch. liii. 3. ' Ps. ex. 3. 


of the ground, which is propagated not by seed, but 
by a process of its own ; in this case, though they 
may have had no expectation of any such events, as 
are related in the first chapter of St. Matthew, yet 
their minds must have been prepared for events of 
some kind, which were to be out of the ordinary 
course of nature. And if so, it is plain that when 
the Aj^ostles applied the passage of Isaiah, now be- 
fore us, to Jesus Christ, they were not putting any 
new construction upon the general meaning of the 
projihecies, but only striking out the sense of a 
particular passage, the knowledge of which had, till 
then, been kept back. 

But why, it may be asked, should the knowledge 
of this event have been kept back? So far from 
being a fact which was dependent upon any human 
agency or control, it was not only a contingent 
event, but a miracle. This is true ; but it was, as 
I shall explain, an event which, if it had been pre- 
^ ■ ceded by a distinct expectation, never could have 
yL (been proved. 'The absence of this, is even a part 
of the evidence on which it stands. 

The truth of the fact, as a moment's consideration 
must shew, rests, and must rest, on the testimony 
of the mother of our Lord. The Apostles do not 
say, (nor if they had, would an adverse party have 
received their afiirmation,) that the knowledge of 
it had been revealed to them by inspiration ; but 
even if it had been, it would still be certain, that the 
aj)plication (»f the prophecy to the birth (»f the 




Messiah, was subsequent to our Lord's nativity ; and ) 

the belief of his miraculous conception anterior to \ »^*^ *-> 

tlie knowledge of the prophecy. If we read St. '"^T*^ y 

Matthew's or St. Luke's account of our Lord's 

birth, we shall have no difficulty in understanding 

the origin of this belief. No one who attached 

credit to the particulars which are there narrated, 

could be likely to have questioned the application of 

the prophecy ; and no one who did not believe those 

particulars, could have been called upon to believe 

the fact, solely on the evidence which the words of 

Isaiah furnished. The business of prophecy, as has 

been explained, is not to prove the truth of facts, but 

to explain the cause. 

In the present case, it cannot be questioned, but 
that the event was of a kind most difficult to prove, 
even if true ; and almost equally difficult of dis- 
proof, if untrue ; and, therefore, such, as would not 
have been entitled to belief, simply on the credit 
of the Virgin Mary's veracity, unsupported by other 
evidence. This other evidence consisted of those 
various miraculous occurrences related by the Evan- 
gelists : — the salutation of the angels, the manifesta- 
tion of a meteoric sign in the heavens ; the address 
of Elizabeth, and all the particulars connected with 
the birth of John the Baptist. If those transac- , 
tions were true, they must have been well known 1 
to many persons then alive ; and if false, the refuta- 
tion of them was also easy, inasmuch as at the time 


of our Saviour's death, the events in question were 
comparatively recent. 

This is the ground on which the credibility of 
Mary's declaration depends. The use made of 
Isaiah's testimony by the Evangelists, was to iden- 
tify the child Jesus, with that child of whom the 
Scriptures had spoken. And if we suppose the ap- 
plication of the prophecy to the Messiah never to 
have been thought of before, but to have been first 
suggested to the Apostles, after their knowledge of 
the extraordinary facts which attended the birth of 
Christ, its testimony would become most important, 
as removing from the minds of those who believed 
those facts to be true, all doubts about the reality 
of Mary's evidence. The case hardly admitted of 
any other proof. 

It is plain, however, that in the above way of 
reasoning, every thing depends upon this supposi- 
tion. If we adopt the hypothesis — which so many 
writers, in their zeal, endeavour to maintain — that 
the prophecy of Isaiah was ahvays understood by the 
Jews in the sense which the Christians have put upon 
it, and contend that the miraculous conception of 
the Messiah had, from the beginning, been a i)art of 
the popular persuasion, the weight of the argument 
would seem to be thrown into the opposite scale. 
Had this been the case, a handle would have been 
given to those, who rejected the pretensions of Christ, 
for saying that the invention of the story had been 


suggested, by the well-known belief of the vulgar. 
Under such circumstances, the prophecy would Lave 
been a hindrance to the evidence of the fact, and 
not a confirmation of it. Instead of advancing the 
divine purpose, it would rather have tended to 
obstruct it. Following up the reasoning, it is plain ^T 
that the concealment of its meaning from the Jews, 
who lived before Christ, furnishes no argument against n^^ 
its authority ; but on the contrary, when considered 
in connexion with the general scheme of prophecy, 
it becomes a presumptive argument in its favour. 

There is another fact in our Saviour's history, of 
even more importance still, which does not seem 
to have formed any part of the Jewish expectation 
concerning the Messiah : and that is, his resurrec- 
tion from the dead. Although the Jews appear 
to have been perfectly aware of the predictions re- 
lating to the sufferings, which the Messiah was in 
some mysterious way to undergo, yet the thought 
of his being destined to suffer death at their hands, 
never seems to have presented itself to their imagina- 
tion: Of course, therefore, those prophecies which 
adverted to the manner of his death, or to any 
facts which pre-supposed this catastrophe, were not 
understood beforehand. Allusion has already been -'^-^ '*^''*^^ 
made to some of those jirophecies ; and it now re- 
mains to inquire, whether the same considerations, 
which explain the ignorance in which the Jews were 
kept, relating to the facts then adverted to, will 
not also account for the obscurity of those prophe- 


cies, in which the resurrection of the Messiah is 
supposed to have been foreshewn. 

After the death of Christ, the passage of Psalm 
xvi. " Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, neither 
shalt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption," 
was applied to this great event. The same applica- 
tion was made of Hosea vi. 2. " After two days he 
will revive us ; on the third day he will raise us up, 
and we shall live in his sight." I do not, at present, 
remember any passage of the New Testament in 
which these words of Hosea are referred to; but 
they have been since, applied to the resurrection of 
Christ. The words of the Psalmist are directly quoted 
in the Acts, and alluded to in other places. The 
Targumists, however, clearly understood the passage 
of Hosea, to refer to our own resurrection from the 
grave ; and I am aware of no passage in the later 
writings of the Jews, from which it can be inferred, 
without straining the sense of the words, that they 
understood either it, or any other jilace of Scripture, 
to intimate the resurrection of the Messiah. 

Here again, then, it is plain that the belief of 
Christ's resurrection, whether we suppose it to have 
been predicted or not, was unconnected with any 
general expectation of the fact. A rumour had, 
indeed, transpired: — "The chief })riests and phari- 
sees came together to Pilate, saying. Sir, we re- 
member that that deceiver said, while he was yet 
alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, 
therefore, that the sej)ulchre be made sure, until 


after the third day, lest his disciples come by night 
and steal him away, and say unto the people, He 
is risen from the dead." This was the explanation 
to be guarded against : — the supposition of fraud and 
collusion. But if so, does it not seem evident, that 
in the case of a fact open to this interpretation, 
any antecedent belief would have afforded a prima 
facie case of suspicion : as furnishing a solution, 
not only of the motives of those by whom the im- 
posture was perpetrated, but also of its success ? It 
is plain, that the allusions to this event in the Old 
Testament are both few and slight, as well as dark 
and ambiguous ; so few and slight, as hardly to con- 
stitute a prophecy. As it is, however, they are more 
than the case requires. The proof of this part of 
our Saviour's history would have been damaged by 
any clear and distinct prediction ; and if the Scrip- 
tures of the Old Testament had been altosfether 
silent on the point, no evil consequence would have 
ensued. The fact, if true, was one which did not 
stand in need of any extraneous proof. The object 
of prophecy, as we have seen, is to prove, not the 
reality of events, but to demonstrate, by means of a 
miraculous proof, the finger of a Divine Providence. 
But if we suppose that our Saviour was really put to 
death by the hand of the public executioner, and 
that he afterwards rose from the grave, remainino- 
many days upon earth convei-sing with his former 
friends and disciples, — it would not seem that any 
miraculous proof was required, for the i)urpose of 

/- f y:.r ...:. 


convincing mankind that a fact like this, could only 
have been performed by God. " It is some conso- 
• A lation to poor human nature," says the elder Pliny, 

" that God cannot do all things. He is denied that 
privilege, — the best he has conferred on men, — of 
taking refuge in death ; he cannot bestow upon mor- 
\ tals the gift of immortality, nor recal the dead to 
life." — " Nee Deum quidem omnia posse. Naniqiw nee 
sibl potest conscisce7'e mo7ie?n, quod optiimiin dcdit 
homini in tantis vitce poenis, nee mortales (eternitate 
donare, nee revocare defunetos." — Nat. Hist. ii. 7. 
Pliny was a believer in natural magic, and has a 
chai)ter upon the science, as he deemed it to be ; 
but it appears, (if we are willing to take his testi- 
mony as an exponent of the popular opinion,) that 
in the estimation of those days, to raise a person 
from the dead, was a miracle, which even the power 
of God himself could not accomplish. 
p The Jewish doctors tell us, " that all the pro- 
phets, none excepted, prophesied only of the years 
^f of the redemption, and the days of the Messiah." 

" All from Moses our master," says Maimonides, 
/ " to Malachi of blessed memory." " They all," says 
Abarbanel, " moved by the Holy Ghost, testify and 

I foretel the coming of the Messiah." It is expressly 

for the purpose of adding to their knowledge of 
such prophecies, that the more learned of their 
nation i)rofess to study the Scriptures. Of course, 
therefore, it would have been no ground of objec- 
tion to the Apostles, in their own day, nor would 


it necessarily be so in ours, if they had sometimes 
quoted passages from the Old Testament, and applied 
them to Christ, which had not been so quoted and 
applied before. Nevertheless, though they might 
have been justified in such a line of argument, yet 
it may, I believe, be broadly asserted, that with the 
single exception of Zechar. ix. 9. there is no such 
case to be found in the New Testament, unless it 
be in the class of prophecies which we have been 
examining ; the sense of which could not have been 
opened, until after the event, without interfering, in 
the way just now explained, with the proof of their 
llilfilment. The passage of Zechariah, " Behold, thy \ 
king Cometh unto thee; he is just, and having sal- . 

vation ; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon / -^^ 
a colt, the foal of an ass," was known to the Jews, / 
and always applied to the Messiah. So far, there- / 
fore, it belongs to the class of perfect prophecies. \ 
But upon the principles I have been laying down, its 
evidence would have been of more value, had it been 
imperfect : that is, not known and understood, until 
after its fulfilment. It was a mark easy to be as- 
sumed ; and for that reason, can be adduced only as 
an evidence to signify the humility of him, who was 
to be the Messiah. So far its testimony is appli- 
cable to Jesus Christ, in a sense which was not 
apprehended by the Jews ; but beyond this, its value 
as a prophecy has been reduced almost to nothing, 
by the very circumstance, which would have im- 


parted to a fact that was contingent, its chief 
/ The object of the preceding remarks has been, to 
( explain certain theoretical rules, connected with the 
I interpretation of prophecy; and to shew, that the 
\ prophecies of the Old Testament have been con- 
J structed in strict accordance with those rules : — the 
next step is to shew their exact accordance with the 
event. The tests of prophecy, it has been said, are, 
time and place, and person ; nothing being more easy 
than to construct prophecies, which shall seem to be 
fulfilled, if no restriction of circumstances is required. 
— " Hoc si est in libris, in quern hominem et i?i quod 
tempus est f collide enim, qui ilia composuit, pe^fecit^ id 
quodcunque accidisset, j)Tcedictum videretur, Jiominum ct 
tempm'um dejinitione sublatd. Adhibidt etiam latebram 
obsciiritafis, ut iidem versus alias in aliam rem posse 
accommodari viderenturV — {De Div. ii. 54.) AV hat- 
ever justice there may be in this remark, as referred 
to the framers of the Sibylline oracles, it cannot, 
with any fairness, be applied to the authors of the 
Jewish. Whether their predictions were fulfilled 
or not, is a question hereafter to be examined ; but 
it will be allowed, that in the Old Testament, 
mankind were boldly put in possession of the 
tests, by which the truth or fiilsehood of its pre- 
tensions to divine inspiration might, at the proper 
season, be determined. No necessary definition, 
whether of time or place, or person, or things, was 


withheld. We find there, no cunning reservations ; ^ 
no dark hiding-places ; no artful accommodation of v 
the language to whatever sense might prove conve- 
nient. It is not necessary to shew this in detail, 
by a separate examination of particular projjhecies. 
The proof of the divine inspiration of the Jewish ^ / 
Scriptures, does not rest upon the fulfilment of 
this or that j^rediction ; but on the accomplish- 
ment of the end to which they were all, in their 
several places and degrees, subordinate ; and the ( 
final establishment of which, was the object of that / 
vast and long protracted scheme of Providence, ) I 
whereof the whole of the Old Testament is but one ) 
continued record. In this view of the argument, we \ 
may pass over all minor points, and taking the inter- ' 
pretation put upon their prophecies by the ancient 
Jewish church, as the datum of the argument, com- 
pare what it was which the Jews expected con- 
cerning the Messiah, and the revelation of which he ) 
was to be the Messenger, with the facts which are 
now believed of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel. It is 
upon the result of this comparison that the question 
hangs, and not upon insulated facts. 



I HAVE licfore had occasion to remark, that at the 
time when the Apostles lived, nothing, humanly 
speaking, could be more improbable, than that the 
event which they proclaimed to be at hand, should 
have come to pass. The Gospel was then as a mere 
speck in the horizon. That in the lai)se of a single 
generation, it should have spread itself over the 
whole firmament, and the name of its Founder have 
become familiar to every people, and in every lan- 
guage of the known world, — though an historical fact 
not to be disputed, — presents a problem, which neither 
the miracles of the New Testament, nor the i)ro- 
phecies recorded in the Old, would be sufficient to 
explain, without the supposition of God's contiimed 


Abstracted from the opinion of a Divine Provi- 
dence, there was not, when Christianity appeared, a 
single point on which the hope of its success could 
have been built. All anticipations from reason and 
experience, all calculations of policy, were opposed 
to such an expectation. The passions of mankind, 
their prejudices, their interests, were all adverse to 
its reception. Every constituted authority, as well 
as every conventional influence, whether of power, or / 
learning, or rank, or wealth, were arrayed on the side 
of its adversaries : — and yet it spread with a rapidity 
and uninterrupted uniformity of progress, which is 
not only surprising in our eyes, who look back upon 
the event, but was the subject of wonder and amaze- 
ment to those, who were witnesses of the phenomenon. 
It is adverted to by Justin Martyr, as if he were 
describing a stream whose course flowed upwards, 
or a vessel which sailed on the waters, with outspread 
canvass, against wind and tide, and every counter- 
vailing force. Mysterious in itself, a miraculous 
character was given to it from the declarations of the 
Old Testament : " Quidqidd agitur,''' says Tertullian, 
speaking of these prophecies to the heathens, and 
pointing their attention to the signs of their fulfilment, 
then passing before their eyes, " cfddcjidd agitur, prce^ 
nuntiaJmtur ; qiddquid videtur, midiebntur : dum patimur 
legmitur, dum recognoscimus probantur :" and this, he 
proceeds to say, is a pledge that all opposition to the 
Gospel will be in vain : its ultimate triumph is de- 
creed : " hinc igitur apiid nos futurmum quoque tula 



fides est jam scilicet probatoimm ; quia cum iUis quce 
) quotidie probantur, proidicebantur. Ecedem voces sn- 
■\ nant : eadem litera notant : idem spiritiis pulsate — 
' Adv. Gent. c. xx. 

Tertullian was writing at the time when mankind 
were in the transitive state between idolatry and the 
Gospel; and when the success of this last in the 
world, was already so assured, as to justify him in 
adducing its triumphs, as an argument to show 
that the promises of the Old Testament were 
actually fulfilling. And he appeals to this argument 
in preference to every other. Passing over all the 
proofs, on which we now rest the argument — passing 
over, moreover, the proofs on which the Apostles 
rested the argument, — he bids his Gentile countrymen 
mark the rapidity, with which Christianity was sjiread- 
ing itself on all sides ; and then compare that which 
they themselves witnessed, vrith what they read in the 
prophets of the Old Testament, concerning the future 
triumph of Christ's kingdom. This great fact, which 
in the days of the Apostles, was a truth which -re- 
mained for time to prove, had already become a 
substantive part of the evidences of the Gospel. 
Tertullian does not argue, as they did, that God was 
about to establish the religion of Christ, because he 
was the Messiah whom the Prophets had foretold ; 
but he shows that our Saviour was the Messiah, be- 
cause his religion had been established, or, at least, 
was visibly in the way to be so. 

I need hardly observe, that if such a line of argii- 


ment was legitimate, at the time when the contro- 
versy between Christianity and idolatry was yet 
pending, and before the success of the former was 
declared — it should be quite conclusive in the pre- 
sent day, when the controversy is at an end and the 
victory completed. If the probable triumph of the 
Gospel in the world, was a sufficient reason for assort- 
ing its divine authority, independently of all other 
proof, except that which was furnished by the Old 
Testament — this presumption should become a cer- 
tainty, now that the triumph of the Gospel is no 
longer a matter of conjecture, but an undisputed 

This reasoning may, perhaps, appear to prove too 
much ; but I believe that a fuller consideration of 
the question will rather confirm than weaken its 

I formerly observed, that all writers upon the Evi- 
dences, in the present day, treat the subject, as if 
they considered the proof to be complete from the 
miracles alone, without the aid of prophecy/^ I then 
remarked, that it is on the success of Christianity in 
the world, that their reasoning ultimately rests, and 
not, as is commonly believed, on the mere wonder- 
fulness of the facts. Now the same proposition is 
true, mutatis mutandis, of the argument from pro- 
phecy. This evidence is also complete in itself,"! 
without the aid of miracles. I do not mean that 
Christianity could have been originally established 


r by the help of prophecy alone ; any more than it 
\ could have stood originally, on the strength of mi- 
racles alone ; — but only that it can now stand singly 
on either proof. In short, I am prepared to shew, 
that if Paley and other writers have been able to 
demonstrate the divine authority of revelation, from 
the New Testament alone, quite independently of 
the Old — it is even still more certain, that the 
same may be demonstrated from the Old Testa- 
ment alone, independently of the New. 

And first, let us examine the question, on general 
principles of reasoning. 
*y. Upon a review of the uncertainty of all human 
speculations concerning the unseen world, and the 
manner in which God ought to be worshipped, Socra- 
tes, as has been mentioned, was led to conjecture, that 
a divine revelation would, at some period, be made 
to mankind. But he did not venture to guess at the 
truths, which would be made known — nor pretend to 
foretel the age, in which this disclosure would be 
made — nor to mention the nation to which it would 
be communicated — nor to describe the person who 
would be employed to reveal God's will to mankind. 
If he had done this, and if all the particulars had 
come to pass, agreeably to his prediction, such pre- 
science would have been regarded by mankind, as 
the effect of divine inspiration. But to take another 
^, It is well known that neitlior Mahomet himself 


nor his followers have alleged any miraculous proofs 
of his pretended divine mission. If that pretension 
rests on any argument at all, it is simply on the pre- 
sumption to be drawn from the success of the Koran. (. 
Although this argument, taken by itself, is not ^Vi-'^^^^^^-Tu 
titled to consideration,, yet it has been brouo-ht -ff ^^ 
forward, as a set-ofF against the weight attached t/Luz \4 
to the same fact, among the evidences of Christi-/''*^' 
anity. Instead of examining the difference of the 
two cases, let us assume a perfect similarity. Ac- 
cordingly we will suppose that there existed among 
the Arabians a series of documents, of the same 
character as those, which were in possession of the 
Jews. Let all the other circumstances be also 
similar : Let there be the san^.e pixiofs of an antiquity 
reaching to an age long anterior to the times of the 
rise of Mahommedism in the Avorld ; and likewise 
evidence to show, that the belief in their prophetical 
character, had not been an opinion suggested by after 
events, but an article of the national creed, as old as 
the documents themselves. We may further imagine 
these venerable documents to have been concealed 
from our knowledge until the present age, and to 
have been very recently brought to light. 

Suppose, now, that on examining this volume we 
found a distinct prediction of the rise of a new reli- 
gion in the world, in which all the leading doctrines 
at present held by the followers of Mahomet w^ere 
plainly set forth. Moreover, that the coming of a 


future messenger was announced, by whom other 
stated particulars were to be fully revealed ; that 
the exact time of his appearing — the place of his 
birth — the rise and progress of his religion — the 
dominion exercised by his successors, and other 
particulars, were stated, such as no human sagacity 
could have foretold. If now all this should be un- 
deniably in perfect conformity with the subsequent 
history of Mahommedism, and agreeable to the pre- 
sent belief of its followers : — would any one in such 
a case, deny the divine mission of its founder ? 

It seems to me that, in the case here supposed, 
the most sceptical reasoner that ever lived would be 
under a necessity of ascribing the conquests of 
Moslemism, and the diffusion of its doctrines, to the 
express interposition of Divine Providence. A pious 
mind, indeed, may believe all events to happen by the 
indirect permission of God; but, in this case, the 
establishment of the Mahommedan religion would be 
considered, as the very act of God ; and no one, if we 
assume the above premises to be true, and suppose 
them to be admitted, could come to any other con- 
clusion without denying the existence of a God. And 
even that alternative, if followed out, would, I think, 
only add to our perplexity. 

Let us then apply this same reasoning to the 
proof of Christianity, as that proof now stands in 
the Old Testament. That wliich has just been 
stated hyi)otlietically, as what would be true of 


the reliffioii of Mahomet under the conditions as- 
signed, will be equally true, under the same sup- 
posed conditions, of the religion of Christ. 

Without entering into the question whether the 
facts asserted by our Saviour's followers really hap- 
pened or not, there can be no doubt as to the belief 
of mankind, on that point, in the present day. So, 
likewise, with respect to the articles of the Christian 
creed : — The original belief of mankind in these 
articles may be as unreasonable, if any one pleases so 
to think, as we will assume the facts themselves, on 
which they are built, to have been improbable. 
Both these points shall be left out of our considera- 
tion. That which I am now concerned to examine, 
refers to another question : Was the belief of man- ^j^f^ 
kind, in the truth of those facts and doctrines, which ^ 
constitute the substance of the Christian creed, pre- / 
dieted before the time when this religion was esta- ) 
blished ? That those things are now believed, no one S^ 
will doubt. But unless the question which I have / 
just asked, can be answered in the negative, the ) 
divine origin of Christianity will be as clear a truth, 
according to the best judgment I am able to form of 
the subject, as any moral demonstration can be. I 
see not any door through which it will be possible to 
escape from the conclusion. 

I am quite aware that this will seem to be a strong 
declaration, even though it is made hypothetically. 
But whether it is stronger than the supposition on 


which it is made would warrant, if the case were true, 
is the question wliich we have to determine; and 
this we shall better be able to do, when we shall have 
been put in possession of the facts on which its truth 

Let us then imagine the case with which I set 

out : — that we knew none of the particulars connected 

1 with the rise of Christianity in the world — that the 

( writings of the Apostles were lost, as well as the 
history of their doings — in short, that neither the 

. / New Testament, nor any knowledge of the parti- 
l cular: which it relates, now existed. 
I Of course we should be ignorant on this supposi- 

/ tion of the sayings of Christ — of the places where 

\ his miracles were performed — of the circumstances 
accompanying them — and of all particular facts con- 
nected with his ministry. But we might still know 
a good deal, in a general way, on these points, from 
other contemporary sources. Let us, however, sup- 
pose that no authentic account of any kind existed, 
either sacred or profane, of the events out of which 
Christianity arose ; that there was an hiatus in this 
part of history — a page torn out, rendering the 

1 knowledge we possess of the facts we are speaking 
of, an entire blank. 

It is not necessary to say that this, if true, would 
be a grievous disadvantage to the interests of Chris- 
tianity. It wouhl set aside all the help men derive 
from their imaginations, and reduce our faith, to little 


more than a dry belief, in a number of general propo- 
sitions. But it is not to be concluded, that we should 
therefore be without the means of forming an opinion 
of its divine authority. 

Omitting all question about the historical truth 
of the facts which are asserted by Christians, there 
is no doubt that, truly or falsely, they believe the 
Founder of their religion to have been born in 
Juda3a, — at Bethlehem, — of the seed of Abraham 
and tribe of Judah, — of the lineage of Jesse, — and 
family of David ; — that he was the son of a reputed 
virgin ; — that he was preceded by another prophet, 
who was his forerunner; — that he lived a life of 
poverty; — that he worked various miracles; — that 
he was put to an ignominious death ; — that he rose 
again from the grave, and ascended into heaven; — 
that his death was a propitiation for the sins of 
mankind ; — that he is now seated at the right hand 
of God, all power and dominion over his Church 
being committed to his hands. Moreover, it is 
the belief of all the Christian world, that these events 
took place, during the standing of the second Temple, 
a short time before the final destruction of Jerusalem, 
and about 500 years from the period of the termina- 
tion of their captivity in Babylon. — These things may 
not be true, but the belief of their truth is certain. 
How did this belief arise, and when ? 

For an answer to these questions, turn back 
to history. As we are supposing no documents to 
exist belonging to the age when the transactions 



are believed to have occurred, — let us begin with 
the writings of Justin JNIartyr, which were com- 
posed probably about fifty years after the taking 
of Jerusalem. From his testimony we learn, that 
an immense multitude of persons, in almost every 
})art of the Roman empire, and even beyond its 
limits, had professed, at the time when he wrote, the 
identical belief, as to every one of the i)articulars 
just now stated, which mankind entertain in the 
present day. 

We go back seventy or eighty years before the 
time of Justin Martyr; and we observe, that the 
whole earth was then either Heathen or Jewish : 
that not so much as the name of a Christian was 
known. But yet, in the interval between these 
two periods, we find, on Heathen as well as Chris- 
tian authority, that the Temple of Jerusalem, and 
the Jewish ritual worship, have been abolished ; — the 
city itself has been destroyed ; — the nation over- 
thrown and dispersed ; — and that in the mean while, 
a religion, asserted by mankind to have had its rise 
in Judaia, during the intervening period, has risen 
upon the ruins of the Jewish, and has spread itself 
among all ranks and classes of men, in every quarter 
of the world. 

It will, 1 think, be admitted, that this statement 
of the case, presents an historical ])henomenon of no 
ordinary cliaracter, nor of a merely commoii-phice 
interest. Viewed simply as a political or phiK>soj)hicaI 
(piestion, tlie curiosity of every thinking man w ould 


be awakened to the desire of learning further parti- 
culars about it. What manner of person, it would 
be asked, was the founder of this supposed revelation ■ 
understood to have been? What account had he 
given of it himself, and what had he done, to persuade 
mankind of its truth ? 

Taking into our account the extraordinary nature 
of the case, it certainly would not excite our surprise 
to be told, as we are by Justin and others, that he 
was believed by his followers to have been invested 
with miraculous powers : — even though tlie reality of 
such pretensions, in the absence of all other data, 
might be thought very problematical. But whether 
true or false, we should be able to say, with confi- 
dence, that the same story as that which is now 
believed, was believed at a period so near to the 
events, as to render it next to certain, that it must 
also have been believed by those, who lived at the 
time, when if true, they must have happened. 
Nevertheless, it would be impossible, on such infor- 
mation as this, to say that a religion, whose origin 
was so indistinctly understood, was of divine autho- 
rity. Extraordinary and utterly inexplicable as its 
rise and rapid progress might be considered, yet 
between this admission, and the acknowledgment of 
its claims to be a revelation from God, would be a 
wide interval of doubtful speculation. / 

At this i)oint, then, let us suppose a discovery 
to be made, for the first time, not of the New, but 
of the Old T estameii t. The language in which 

140 THE riiOPp:R use of rRornEcv [lect. 

the volume is written, would be a guarantee of its 
antiquity : the hands in whose keeping it had been 
preserved, would be a warrant for its genuineness ; 
many other things there are about it, which would 
create a lively interest. But it is in relation to the 
great problem we have been speaking of, that its 
importance would be chiefly felt ; and felt, I think, 
not without emotions of wonder and surprise. 

Upon examining the volume attentively, we 
should find, that a large portion of the whole was 
directly referrible, and the remainder of it, for the 
most part, indirectly, to a promise, said to have 
been made by the Supreme Being, to the original 
parents of the great family of mankind, purporting 
that certain privileges, forfeited by them, and with- 
drawn from their children, should be restored in 
the person of one of their descendants, — who is 
described as " the seed of the woman." This Pro- 
mise, thus generally expressed, (as the ajiplication 
of it was al§o very, comprehensive,, embracing appa- 
rently all the children of Adam^ was in j)rocess 
of time repeatedly renewed ; and always with some 
circumstance appended, clearing up, and, at the 
same time, defining its meaning; until at length, 
it becomes plain, that the sense of it must be under- 
stood, as indicating the approach of some great and 
mysterious individual, through whom God proposed 
entering into a new covenant with mankind. 

The names under which this exalted j)c'rson is 
described, arc connnensurate with so high an em- 


bassage. " Thy King cometli ;" " thy Salvation 
Cometh ;" " the Lord coraeth ;" " the Messenger 
of the Covenant, he shall come ;" " the Desire of 
all nations shall come." " The Son of God ;" " the 
Son of Man ;" " the Holy One ;" " the Just One ;" 
" the Lord our Righteousness ;" — are also titles at- 
tributed to him ; but the appropriate name, by which 
he was more characteristically designated, was the 
JMessiah, that is, the Christ, or the Anointed. 

On further examination, we find that the re- 
velation, of which this divine Messenger was to 
be t]]e bearer, is abundantly clear, as to the general 
fact, however indefinite as to some of the parti- 
cular truths, that were to be disclosed. Conform- 
ably with the promise made to Adam, it was to 
be a dispensation, under which an atonement and 
reconciliation of some sort, was upon repentance, to 
be effected between man and his offended Maker. 

In that day, all the false religions of the world 
were to disappear ; the idols were to be utterly abo- 
lished ; they were to go into the holes of the rocks 
and the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord ; 
whose power alone was to be exalted, and the earth 
to be full of the knowledge of his name, as the 
waters cover the sea. The kingdoms of the world 
were to become the kingdoms of the Lord ; — a new 
heaven and a new earth were to be created, m which 
the righteous only should dwell, by an everlasting 
covenant, which should never be destroyed, but 
stand fast for ever. 


Sublime as is the language, in which the general 
import of the Promise is here descriljed, yet the 
dignity of the Messenger, in whom the fulfilment 
was to be accomplished, and upon whose shoulders 
the government of this mysterious kingdom was to 
be placed, is expressed in terms which are, if possi- 
ble, still more sublime. His name, we are told, 
shall be called, " Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty _/^ 
God, the Everlasting Father, the Prrnce of Peace." 

But though all the nations of the earth were to 
be blessed in him ; though his dominion was to ex- 
tend from one end of the earth to the other ; though 
kings were to fall down before him, and princes to 
worship him ; — yet was he to have no external 
marks of greatness or superiority ; he was to have 
no form nor comeliness ; and when men saw him, 
there was to be no beauty that they should desire 
him. His first appearance was to be without noise 
or obstruction ; he was not to cry, nor lift up, nor 
cause his voice to be heard in the streets ; but was 
to grow up silently and imperceptibly, Hke a tender 
plant, or a root out of a dry ground. JNIoreover, he, 
was to be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with 
grief; he was to be taken from prison and from 
judgment, and be brought like a lamb to the 
slaughter; but it was for our transgressions that 
the promised Deliverer was to be wounded : he was 
to be bruised for our iniquities ; he was to make 
intercession for the transgressors, by yielding his 

soul an offering for sin. 



Sucb^Jn Se^Y words, is the substance of that great 
Promise, towards which the thoughts and expecta- 
tions of mankind were directed in the Okl Testa- 
ment. It is obvious to observe, that the subject of 
it is not limited to time or place, but embraces all 
ages and nations ; the event to which it points is, 
not the downfall of an old and the rise of a new 
empire, in the world ; but the downfall of an old and 
the rise of a new religion ; — a moral and not a poli- 
tical revolution ; — not something which w'as to lia]i- 
pen to mankind, but something which they would, 
at a certain period, be brought to believe. That this 
Promise has, so far, been fulfilled, needs not to be 
stated. We ourselves are the witnesses, or rather, 
I should say, we are an evidence of the fact. 

But combined with the revelation of certain truths, 
and the annunciation of future mercies and blessings, 
are a great variety of circumstantial prophecies, hav- 
ing no relation to the Promise itself, but only to the 
time when the promised Mediator of this new cove- 
nant, between God and his creatures, would appear ; 
to the lineage and family from w^hich he was to 
spring ; the place where he was to be born ; and 
other particulars of a similar kind, which were to 
be the marks, by means of which the fulfilment of 
the promise was, at the proper season, to be ascer- 

Compare, then, the particulars here stated and 
described, with the belief which mankind entertain ; 
that is, compare the marks laid down in the Old 

'' { 


Testament, by which the coming of the Messiah was 
to be determined, with the facts relating to the 
nation, and family, and birth-place, and life, and 
death, of Jesus Christ, as asserted by Christians. 
Look also to the time, within which all these things 
were to happen, according to the Jewish Scriptures, 
and after which it is expressly said, that " the vision 
and the j^rophecy were to be sealed up ;" — and then 
see whether it ao^rees or not with the date assiofned 
by history to the rise of Christianity. 

This is a task which it requires no learning to 
accomplish. We are not called upon to inquire, 
whether the facts asserted of Christianity are true, 
but only to inquire what are the facts which its 
followers believe. And with this limitation of the 
question, it is plain, that so far as concerns the 
general history and character of Jesus Christ, or the 
great and leading doctrines which constitute the re- 
ligion of which he was the Founder, they are points 
which are laid down by the prophets of the Old 
Testament, almost as circumstantially as by tlie his- 
torians of the New. Whether the four Gospels had 
been written or not, would therefore make but little 
difference in the argument, by which we now con- 
nect the truth of Christianity with the evidence of 
prophecy. We learn from the New Testament the 
process by which the fulfilment of the prophecies 
was effected ; but their fulfilment is now a matter of 
fact, and quite independent of our knowledge or 
ignorance, as to the manner in which it came to 


pass. The correspondence between the present be- 
lief of mankind and that promised revelation, which 
is the subject of almost every page, in certain books 
of the Old Testament, is not a verbal coincidence, 
but a coincidence of facts : a coincidence between 
an established belief, about which there can be no 
doubt, and a previous expectation, not less certain, 
founded on the faith of prophecy. It matters not to 
inquire, whether the language of prophecy has been 
rightly understood or not. I am taking it in the 
sense, in which it was understood by those, who 
lived before its supposed fulfilment ; in the sense, 
that is to say, on which the previous expectation 
was built. If that sense was ivrofig, the conformity / / 

. .., XI , ._.• U- 1 .1„J k ^^ 


of the event with the expectation which preceded ^ 
it, instead of being explained, becomes only the ^ 
more miraculous. 

If we were examining the case of some single 
prediction, it would perhaps be an obvious suppo- 
sition, that its correspondence with the event was 
merely accidental, x But the coincidences in the 
present case are not of a kind, or if they were, yet / 
they are too numerous, to admit of this supposition. 
If it be admitted that they have been fulfilled, to / 
say that it was the pure effect of a lucky hit, — a 
mere extraordinary toss-up in the chapter of acci- 
dents, would in fact be no explanation, but only a 
device to get rid of the question. And yet I am ^^ 
able to see no alternative between standing upon 
this ground, and admitting the divine origin of tlie 

. L 



/ Gospel. I see no intermediate hypothesis by which 
V^ we can escape this conclusion : not even if we assume 
the propositions of M'hich it consists, to be untrue ; 
for this Avould only take us out of a difficulty, to 
plunge us into a plain aiitl palpable absurdity. 
/ That a human being, by some effort or process of 
. reasoning with which we are unacquainted, might 
know beforehand certain facts, which were really to 
happen ; or that he should be able to anticipate 
certain doctrines, having a foundation in truth, which 
mankind in the lapse of ages would be brought to 
entertain, is at least an intelligible supposition. But 
to suppose that any depth of wisdom, or art, or 
science, should enable him to calculate by reason, 
or^any accident, enable him to guess by chance, that 
mankind would come, some hundred years after, to 
believe in a particular fable, in a certain dream, 
founded neither in reason nor experience, neither in 
truth nor in fact, is a supposition utterly extravagant 
and incomprehensible. 

But \vhatever explanation we may embrace, the 
data on which the ]3roof of the truth of Christianity, 
from the prophecies of the Old Testament, is founded, 
as they have been here stated, are facts which a man 
is not at liberty to call in question. The proof is not 
one which he can shake off, merely by denying the 
truth, or asserting the impossibility, of Christianity. 
The minute and circumstantial conformity of the 
religion which is now professed, with the revelation 
which the Jews expected, will not be at all less eer- 


tain, even though we should suppose the very exist- 
ence of such a person as Jesus Christ, to be a mere 
fiction ; and all that is believed concerning him, to 
be nothing more than imagination. On this suppo- 
sition, indeed, the actual belief of mankind will 
require to be accounted for, on some hypothesis, 
founded on an explanation different from that which 
we read in the New Testament: but this will be 
the only difference, so far as the present argument 
is concerned. 

If the facts related by the Apostles really happened, 
then the fulfilment of the prophecies to which they 
appeal, and the divine origin of the religion which 
they preached, may be proved on a testimony which 
cannot be questioned : namely, the signs and wonders, 
and innumerable miracles, by which the publication of 
it to mankind, was accompanied. If we contend that 
these last did not really happen, and suppose Chris- 
tianity to be a mere superstition, in this case it will 
be necessary to explain how it has come to pass, that 
the present belief of mankind in facts, which never 
had any existence, and in doctrines that have no 
foundation in truth, either human or divine, should 
yet be found minutely delineated and exactly fore- 
told, in books, of which the very latest was written, 
beyond all possible question, not less than 400 years 
before this belief was known in the world. 

To say that this miraculous knowledge was given 
to the writers of these books, by divine inspiration, 
will here be contrary to the hypothesis. As little will 




it be asserted, that this knowledge was conveyed to 
them by reason : for reason never could have anti- 
cipated the belief of mankind in propositions above, 
or contrary to, reason. If there be any third suppo- 
sition, it is one which I cannot guess, and therefore 
am not able to investigate. 

The object of the preceding remarks has been to 
shew the proper use to be made of the Old Testa- 
ment, by us in the present day ; and how important 
a place it occupies in the evidences of Christianity. 
To omit this testimony altogether, or pass it over 
lightly, as not essential, is as great and unaccount- 
able a mistake, as has ever been committed in theo- 
logy. It may be admitted that the proof from the 
New Testament is complete in itself, since the esta- 
blishment of Christianity, without any help from the 
Old; but we have seen, that the proof from this 
last, is no less complete by itself, since the same 
event, without the aid of the New. The necessity 
for this double principle of evidence, was created by 
the exigences of a new religion. The i)roof of the 
prophecies having been fulfilled, would have been 
difficult in the days of the Apostles, if not impossible, 
without the argument from miracles ; as the divine 
authority of the miracles, could not have been 
originally demonstrated, without the testimony of 
prophecy. At the time when Christianity was first 
preached, both proofs were combined in the con- 
clusion. It can now stand upon either of them 
singlv ; nevertheless we are not to suppose, that one 


or the other of these respective proofs may now be p 
hiid aside, or has become superfluous. The object ] 
which a man of serious mind proposes to himself, in 
studying the evidences of Christianity, is not to 
gratify his curiosity respecting the truth of the par- 
ticular miracles related in the New Testament, or 
the fulfilment of particular prophecies in the Old ; 
but to come to a right conclusion respecting the 
authority of the revelation which has been built upon 

There are difficulties, however, in obtaining the 
assurance we desire — partly from a consciousness of 
the fallibility of our own understanding, and, in 
the case where we reason from the miracles alone, 
from the fallible nature of the i)roofs themselves. 
The authenticity of the books, the competency of the 
writers as witnesses, or their authority, as judges, are 
])oints which we cannot reduce to a mathematical 
certainty. Then again, the character of the facts 
adduced is so surprising, that it is not easy to esti- 
mate what is the amount of testimony which they 
require : or supposing them to have happened, the 
(loctrines preached by the Apostles are hardly less 
remote from our apprehensions, than are the events 
which they narrate, fi'om our customary experience. 
Even supposing these last to have happened, where 
we may therefore still ask, is our security, that the 
truths they published, are the very truths which the 
miracles were intended to attest ? 

These are not fanciful, but very natural feelings, J 
and which it often reipiires a strong effort of reason 


to put down. In a matter of such vital importance 
as the principles of our religious belief, and where 
the subject is in many respects so far above our com- 
prehension, we distrust our own understandings ; we 
seek some evidence, by which we may be sure that 
we have committed no mistake. Even the mathe- 
matician subjects his clearest conclusions, to what he 
calls a proof; well then may we be excused, if we 
desire to do the same, in our religion. 

But what course does the mathematician pursue ? 
When an algebraist or geometrician wishes to test 
the correctness of his deductions, he does not simj^ly 
revise his proof, but he subjects it to some other 
process of demonstration ; and if he finds, that two 
opposite or distinct lines of reasoning lead to one 
and the same result, he considers that it may be 
depended upon as certain. Do we then desire to 
verify the proofs which the New Testament affords, 
by submitting the argument from miracles to some 
independent test ? The thing is not difficult. We 
have the Old Testament in our hands. Let us try 
the divine authority of the Gospel, by the evidence 
of prophecy. If the conclusion comes out, point by 
point, the same from the Old Testament, as we had 
previously arrived at, by reasoning from the New ; 
or vice versa, if the conclusion which we draw from 
the latter is confirmed by the former, then we shall 
have obtained the same result, from two jirocesses 
of reasoning as independent of each other, as any 
which the strictest demonstration would require. 

At the time when the miracles were exhibited. 


neither the object for which, nor the authority by 
which, they were wrought, could have been known 
without that " more sure word of prophecy," which, 
as St. Peter says, was " as a liglit shining in a dark 
place." But that " dark place," is now no longer 
dark. Prophecy with us is not to be regarded as a 
mere ancillary argument. It is now, as we have seen, 
a substantive and concurrent evidence, complete in 
itself; resting on its own strength; and requiring no 
other witness than the proof of its truth, which the 
actual belief of mankind Js sufficient to provide. But 
it is easy to see, this is not the position which was 
occupied by the evidence of prophecy in the days of 
the Apostles. They could not appeal to the actual 
belief of mankind, at a time when all mankind were 
either Jews or Paojans. The aro-ument in their hands 
must have taken quite a different shape. It must 
have been to facts of another kind, that they ad- 
dressed themselves, when they adduced the Old 
Testament in proof of the doctrines which they 
preached : — proceed we to inquire what those facts 
were, and what the reasoning which they built upon 




Whatever construction we put upon that great 
Promise, the belief of which exercised so long, and 
in the end, such a fatal influence upon the destiny 
of the Jewish people, none can be proposed, which 
will not involve the supposition of some new era 
in the history of mankind : — a change of some sort 
in their condition under God's providence. Whether 
this Promise was from God, or, if from God, what was 
the true interpretation of it, is a question which we 
are not at the present moment called upon to diScuss. 
Keeping our eye upon facts only, it will be equally 
certain on any view we can take of the subject, that 
mankind at large have put that construction uj)un 
the meaning of the Old Testament, for which the 
Apostles contended. This will not be the less certain, 


if we suppose neither the Jewish nor the Christian 
explanation to be right. I have never heard of any 
third interpretation ; but if there were many others, 
it would not affect this part of the question. It 
is clear, that the covenant, or promise, or good 
tidings, or whatever it is to be called, which forms 
the subject of those portions of the Old Testament 
which are not historical, if it has not been realized 
in the Gospel, has not been realized at all. 

Viewing the question, then, as between the Jews 
and Apostles, and taking the New Testament as 
our guide, it would not appear that any difference 
of opinion existed, at the time when Christianity 
first appeared, as to the reality of the Promise to 
which the minds of men were then pointed ; but 
only as to the time and place of its fulfilment ; — 
whether in this or in another life, whether in a 
literal or in a spiritual sense. It is plain, moreover, 
that the solution of this doubt could not be ob- 
tained beforehand, merely from the words of the 
Old Testament. It was a question which had been /' 
left open, and could be determined only by the 

But a time was predicted, when this uncertainty 
was to be removed. God was to send a " Messenger 
of the covenant," who was to interpret his Promise, 
and pronounce the conditions, upon which it would 
be offered to mankind. From his mouth the re- 
velation was to proceed. This, at once, narrowed 
the controversy, between the nation of the Jews 




and the Apostles. Was Jesus of Nazareth, that 
Messenger ? " Art thou he that should come, or do 
we look for another ?" This was the one question 
on which issue was joined. Was he, or was he not, 
"that prophet, that should come into the world ?" 

In the present day, this question, as has been 
already said, may comparatively speaking, be easily 
answered. The time when " that prophet " was ex- 
pected, is now passed. We have lived to witness 
the fulfilment of the Promise which was made to 
mankind ; and the belief of millions in its truth, 
has become an initial point, from which all our 
reasonings may diverge. 

But the Apostles, as we have seen, were shut out 
from all the advantages, which the lapse of time has 
furnished. They were thrown upon the necessity of 
adducing a more direct evidence ; and one, upon 
human grounds of reasoning, much more difficult of 
access. What that evidence was, I shall now proceed 
to examine. In the discussion of this point, I shall 
not go out of my way, when it can be avoided, to 
argue any point of opinion ; my business is simply 
to exhibit a statement of the proofs on which the 
belief of mankind, as to the fulfilment of the ex- 
pected Promise, whether right or wrong, was origi- 
nally founded. 

I need hardly observe, that all the knowledge we 
possess on this head, which is not quite general, has 
been drawn from the New Testament. There is 
no other source to which we can apply for authentic 


information. On examining this book then, we 
find that the whole volume, from the beginning to 
the end, relates to Jesus Christ : — his birth, — his ac- 
tions, — his sayings, — his deportment and character, 
are there, in a very lively manner, pourtrayed : and 
from these, the writers of this book, strenuously and 
successfully contended, that he was that Divine Mes- 
senger so often spoken of in the Old Testament, in 
whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. 
This is the single point which they endeavoured to 
prove. It is not that he was a prophet, but that he 
was the Prophet. It is not that he delivered a mes- 
sage from God, but that message, which the whole 
Jewish people were then and there expecting ; and 
which related not to the promise of some revelation, 
but to the meaning of a revelation long since in 
their possession ; one which had been sealed up, 
indeed, from their knowledge, but the contents of 
which was, and had been, for many generations, the 
object of their earnest and wondering curiosity. 

The question then which we have to examine, is 
this : What were the circumstances, in the life, and 
actions, and teaching of Christ, by which so high a 
claim was to be substantiated? Assuming all the 
facts related in the New Testament really to have 
happened : — what were the prophecies fulfilled in his 
person, by which those who were living when he 
came into the world, could know with certainty 
that he was that Messiah, whom they had so long- 
desired? What were the truths and doctrines he 


taught, wliich when they came to be revealed, ex- 
plained the meaning of the " words of this sealed 
book," to use the expression of Isaiah, wliich had 
been so long entrusted to the keeping of one parti- 
cular people, set apart apparently from the rest of 
mankind, for that express purpose ? 

If we call to mind the remarks which were made 
in a former Lecture, when discussing the general 
principles upon which the proof of a divine revela- 
tion depended, we shall be able to appreciate all the 
difficulties, with wliich the task, undertaken and ac- 
complislied by the Apostles, was environed. But in 
addition to those wliich I then pointed out, as in- 
herent in the thing itself, theoretically considered, — 
there was, in the case of the Gospel, a difficulty, over 
and above, arising out of a peculiarity in the leading 
doctrine of which it consists, — I mean the death of 
its Founder. 

The language both of the Old and New Testa- 
ments, clearly indicates that this death was to be 
caused by violent means : it was to be a sacrifice, a 
ransom, a propitiation, an atonement. The words 
of prophecy directly express this in many places. 
In the New Testament it is always said, that the 
very purpose of Christ's coming, was to die for the 
sins of the world. I am not now asserting any theo- 
logical point, but merely stating what is the language 
used by the Apostles, as well as by the writers 
of tlie Okl Testament. Moreover, the whole his- 
tory, as well as particular i)assages of the latter. 



imply that the instruments of tliis crime were to 
be the Jews themselves, — the very people among 
whom he was to be born, and with whom the pro- 
phecies relating to him had been deposited. 

But how was this to be effected ? The object which 
these prophecies had in view was, that the Jews should 
know their Messiah, when the time for his appearance 
among mankind should arrive. But if, when he came, 
they were to be the instruments, in the hand of God, 
of putting him to a shameful death, it was necessary, 
that the meaning of the prophecies relating to him, 
should be carefully withheld from their knowledge. 
For it is hardly to be supposed that they would 
voluntarily have incurred the guilt of crucifying the 
Lord's Anointed. The act presupposes, that they 
were ignorant of his true character. The hypothesis, 
then, upon which this portion of the prophecies was 
constructed, would seem to require, that " the marks 
of the Messiah," as they are termed by the Jews, 
should be of such a kind, as not to afford the 
means of recognizing his person, while be was yet on 
earth. '^ ^;:,./^j^/ ./ Xv, //J^/:^^ -^r i iT^^^i- '■'->— -^y 

That This was, in effect, the case, we learn from"] , ' ^ ' 
the New Testament. But the fact is not the less(^ 
remarkable. In the whole volume of the Old Testa-/ ^r*-^^- 
ment, there is no single prophecy, so expressly/ //t^%«+^ 
referred to the Messiah by their ancient paraphrasts, 
nor so frequently alluded to, in other ancient writings 
of the Jewish Church, as the fifty-third chapter of 
Isaiah. There is scarcely a verse, from the beginning . ' 



to the end of the Targum of Jonathan, upon this 
important scripture, in which the Messiah is not 
directly named, as the subject of the prophecy. 
In the Pugio Fidei are numerous extracts out of 
several later Jewish documents, from which it would 
appear, that their earlier Rabbins had deduced from 
this same chapter, a knowledge of the mediatorial 
office of the Redeemer. The Jews of the present day 
acknowledge the prophecy, in the same sense as their 
forefathers understood ; — but yet it is next to cer- 
tain, that the death of the Messiah, at the hands 
of his own, or of any other people, was never appre- 
hended by them, as one of the events by which his 
advent would be declared. Though this part of his 
fiiture history is foreshown as clearly as words can 
express, in the twenty-second Psalm, in the ninth of 
Daniel, and in the well-known chapter of Isaiah just 
now alluded to; and though other parts of these 
same chapters are by the Jews themselves referred to 
the Messiah (and, indeed, in the case of the two last 
at least, could not have been otherwise): — yet does 
this event appear, from the very beginning, to have 
been entirely concealed from the knowledge of their 

We are not, at present, called upon to explain the 
reasons why the Jews, as a nation, rejected Jesus 
Christ ; but only to state the grounds, on -which man- 
kind in general consented to receive him as their 
Saviour. Those who disbelieve in his divine authority 
will, of course, adduce the conduct of the Jews, as a 



presumptive argument against it. But, on the other 
hand, they by whom his divine authority is believed, 
will consider the same fact, as an evidence of the con- 
trary conclusion. For we have seen, that except the 
Jews had been kept in ignorance on this point, that 
great prophecy, on which the whole scheme of the 
Gospel rests, could not, humanly speaking, have been 
fulfilled. And we have also seen, that on their own 
hypothesis of the meaning of those very portions of the 
Old Testament, in which this prophecy occurs, their 
denial of the existence of this particular prediction, 
whether right or wrong, is equally unaccountable. 

Be the force, however, of the objection what it 
may, it was foreseen and provided against. There 
are few things more pointedly spoken of in the Old 
Testament, than the future blindness which would be 
made to fall upon the Jews. In the very earliest of all 
the prophecies relating to their nation, when Moses is 
speaking of the intolerable miseries which they would 
have to endure in the last days, it is mentioned, 
among other instances, " that they shall grope 
at noon-day, as the blind gropeth in darkness \" 
Isaiah, speaking of the same period, tells the Jews 
" the spirit of deep sleep would then be poured upon 
their understandings." They were " to have eyes, 
and see not ; ears were they to have, and hear not," 
— " their heart was to be made fat and their ears 
heavy, and their eyes to be shut, lest they should 

' Deut. xxviii. 29. 



see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and 
understand with their heart, and should be con- 
verted and healed'." It would be easy to accumulate 
authorities on this head from almost every part of 
the Old Testament. But they must be in the memory 
of every one who is conversant with the Scriptures ; 
as must be also, the frequent allusions to them, which 
are made by our Saviour. The fact is very exactly 
stated by St. Paul, when he tells tlie Corinthians, that 
the minds of the Jews " were blinded ; for until 
this day," (speaking of the veil which Moses put 
over his face-,) " remaineth the same veil untaken 
away in the reading of the Old Testament. Even 
unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon 
their heart ^" If the prophecies may be believed, 
^ this effect was the act of God. And if it was the 
act of God, we have seen the reason why he inter- 
posed. The accomplishment of his purpose required 
that the Messiah, when he came, should be rejected 
of the Jews ; but as the great end in view was to 
reveal him to mankind at large, how was this last 
purpose to be obtained, without such evidence as 
would, at the same time, open the eyes of the 
former ? We know that the difficulty was overcome : 
let us examine the means which were employed. 

/ With respect to miracles, it was believed by the 
' Jews, that many wonderful signs would be manifested 

, in the days of the Messiah ; among others, that the 

' Ch. vi. 'J, 10. "^ Exod. xxxiv. ' 2 Cor. iii. 11, IT). 


blind would receive their sight, and that the lame 
would walk, and that there would be no more sick- 
ness nor death. But, as far as I am able to judge, 
they considered these as general blessings, belonging 
to the kingdom which he would establish. I cannot 
find any authority for supposing, that they were 
reckoned among the marks, by which he was to be 
personally known ; nor does the language of the Old 
Testament necessarily lead to such a supposition. 
The Jews strenuously and unanimously assert, that it 
does not. But their present way of thinking, except 
when it confirms the Christian interpretation, is 
seldom of much importance, and need not, in this 
case, be regarded. Of the evidence which the miracles 
of Christ afforded of his divine authority, few will 
doubt; at least not in the present day. But I am 
speaking of this evidence, as it appeared at the time 
when Christ was born ; and considering only, whether 
it was among the foreshown marks of the Messiah. 
Of this I have found no sufficient proof. 

Putting aside, then, the miracles ascribed to Christ, 
and the uncommonness of the character which he 
displayed, and looking only to the outward circum- 
stances of his appearance, — few things strike the mind 
more forcibly, when reading his history, than the 
total absence of every thing, by which his person 
could be distinguished, from the general mass of 
human beings. 

The great majority of mankind belong to the 
labouring part of the community; and in that 


^< / "' ''' -e..^- /> 


Jlf^ ^'-.r A 2^. • :^' 



class was the Saviour born. In that class was he 
also educated, and passed all the years, both of his 
youth and manhood ; nor does he seem, even during 
the period of his ministerial duties, ever to have 
stepped beyond it. Of his habits or actions as an 
individual, we know absolutely nothing ; no private 
incident or anecdote of his life has been preserved, 
even in tradition. Nevertheless, if we compare his 
history, brief as it is, with those parts of the pro- 
phecies which relate to the future INIessiah, we shall 
see that there is no note or stipulation, in any part 
of them, which was not fulfilled in his life, as it has 
been related in the New Testament; nor any cir- 
cumstance to be pointed out in any part of his life, 
which was adverse to his ])retensions, as ascertained 
from the Old. And yet, so strictly e.vcliisive were 
all the marks on which the proof was made to 
depend, that upon looking into the life of Christ 
as it has been preserved by the evangelists, and 
comparing it with the prophecies ; or examining the 
prophecies, and comparing them with his life, — it 
will be difficult to jioint out any passage of either, by 
which the identity of Jesus with the future Messiah, 
could have been conclusively asserted. 

Besides the miracles which he performed, there 
were abundant materials to be found in what he said 
and did, to cause admiration, — to create surmise, — to 
perplex the judgment of mankind ; but upon the face 
of the narrative, there is no fact by which he could 
have been recognized as the Messiah. Not any inci- 


dent is mentioned, which could properly have been 
made the subject of a prophecy. But if there had 
been, care was taken that no marks of that kind 
should be foretold. Precautions had been provided, 
to defend mankind from the danger of believing in 
false Christs ; but all means were withheld, by which 
the Jews might know, how to discern the true one. 

No one, not of the seed of Abraham, could be the 
Messiah ; no one, not of the tribe of Judah ; no one, / 
not of the lineage of David; no one, not born at / 
Bethlehem ; no one, not coming into the world before 
a certain epoch • no one coming into it, after. More- 
over, the particular event. was clearly foreshown, after 
which all hope of his coming would be, for ever, ] 
at an end. But in the age when Jerusalem was 
destroyed, though the number of persons could not 
be large, yet there might be many more individuals 
than one, whom these limitations of time, and place, 
and lineage, would not have excluded. Every one of 
these marks was negative ; not one of them was such 
as could only apply to a single individual. Effectual 
preservatives they might be, under Divine Providence, 
against the possibility of imposition ; but, taken by 
themselves, they were nothing more. 

Thus far, then, the blindness of the Jews is not 
so surprising, as it might at first sight have appeared. 
During the period of Christ's ministry upon earth, 
there was not one definite mark by which he could 
be infallibly recognized. Viewing the Scriptures in 
the light, in which the Jews then and since have re- 
^ c M 2 


garded them, and fixing our eye upon those particular 
predictions, by which all their thoughts and expecta- 
tions were absorbed, — it may be said of Christ, that 
his appearance, as well as his pretensions, instead of 
fulfilling, not only seemed, but did actually contradict, 
every one of the affirmative prophecies, upon which 
the popular belief was built. 

If we examine closely the narrative of the Evan- 
gelists, we shall perceive that the faith, even of the 
Apostles themselves, at this period, amounted to 
nothing more than a lively opinion ; an eager hope, 
in which their understanding had less share than 
their heart and imagination. While their Divine 
Master was alive, they " had trusted that it had been 
he, which should have redeemed Israel ;" but the 
persuasion of this tnith was not proof, in their minds, 
against the fact of his crucifixion. It would be little 
better than a waste of time to produce proofs of this ; 
because no one who has read the Gospels with atten- 
tion, can have overlooked the many jmssages from 
which it may be shown. Relying upon that evidence, 
as well as upon the circumstances of the case, I think 
it may be asserted, without exaggeration, that at the 
moment when " Jesus bowed his head and gave up 
[ the ghost," there was not a human being upon earth 
who knew, with full assurance, whose spirit it was, 
which had taken its departure. T Mill add, that if the 
; story had closed there and then, there would not be, 
( at this present time, a Christian in the world. All 
trace of an event, at which we are told by those who 


witnessed the scene, that " the earth did quake," and 
" the sun was darkened," would have perished, even 
from the memory of mankind. 

This event, however, was supposed at the time, by 
those who compassed it, to liave supplied a test which 
was considered by all, as conclusive of the contro- 
versy, so far as regarded the opinion, that he was or 
could be the Messiah. " If thou be the Son of God, 
come down from the cross ;" — " If he be the King of 
Israel, let him come down from the cross, and we 
will believe him ;" — " Thou that destroyest the 
temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself;" 
— " He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if 
he will have him, for he said I am the Son of God :" 
— are noticed by the Evangelists among the taunts, 
to which the Redeemer was exposed; expressions 
which I quote, because they are significant of the 
reasoning, that was in the minds of the spectators. 

But we read that God's ways are not as our ways, 
nor his thoughts as our thoughts. A more striking 
illustration of this certain truth need not be adduced, 
than the case before us will afford. That which, in 
the eyes of the Jews, and indeed of all human wisdom 
and conjecture, seemed to disprove the pretensions 
of Jesus to be the Christ, by an evidence palpable to 
the senses of mankind, — was an argument by which 
his title was, and may always be, demonstrated. 

I am not now speaking of the fact, merely as it 
was the fulfilment of a prophecy. Doubtless, in this 



point of view, it furnishes a remarkable testimony 
to the divine authority of Christianity. That a reh- 
gion, the profession of which is co-extensive with 
human civihzation, — which the rich as well as the 
poor, the learned as well as the ignorant, believe to 
have had its origin with God, — should, nevertheless, 
have been ostensibly founded by one, who was put to 
death by public authority, between two thieves,- as a 
convicted blasphemer, — would reasonably excite our 
wonder and surprise, on any supposition that, we can 
frame. But that the fact should have been unam- 
biguously foretold, many generations before it came 
to pass ; and have been laid down, as the great and 
leading doctrine, on which this religion was to be 
founded, is something more than extraordinary — it is 
itself as clear a miracle as the imagination can well 
conceive. No wonder, if the suspicion of such a 
truth as this was hidden from the Jews. 

But in saying that the death of Christ supplied an 
argument by which his divine authority might be 
demonstrated, we should greatly undervalue its 
importance, if we were simply to speak of it in a 
general way, as the fulfilment of a great and amazing 
prophecy ; it possesses, if possible, a still higher and 
more important claim to our attention, as demon- 
strating, by infallible evidence, — by an evidence, 
independent of any opinion we may entertain as to 
the truth, either of the prophecies of the Old Testa- 
ment, or tlie miracles of the New, — that the parti- 


cular proposition wliicli the Jews hoped to establish, 
when they put him to death, was not and could not 
be true. 

It is evident from the narrative of the Evangel- 
ists, that when the Jews dragged Jesus before the 
tribunal of Pilate, the impression upon their minds 
was, that he was an impostor. It does not appear, 
that .they denied or disbelieved the facts related in 
the New Testament ; but whether true or not, they 
thought that, by means of them, he was attempting 
to deceive the people into a false opinion of his real 
character. It is also plain from the narrative, that 
he had worked, or pretended to have worked, mira- 
cles ; and, moreover, that the interpretation which 
he had put upon the prophecies, in those places where 
the death and sufferings of the future Messiah are 
spoken of, was the same as that, which the Apostles 
afterwards, and all Christians have since maintained. 

These facts being premised, it will be easy to 
show that they are absolutely irreconcileable with 
the charge which was preferred by the Jews. The 
position which I hope to establish is, that assuming 
the truth of the history, in that part which relates 
to the death of Christ, the supposition of his having 
practised any deception upon mankind, had been so 
provided against, in the Old Testament, as to make 
the truth of the charge, on account of which he 
suffered, quite impossible. 

I need not say how important a point will be 
gained, if we can establish this proposition on any 


infallible proof. Viewing the question as it relates 
to ourselves, it would seem to embrace the whole 
argument. If we could be certain, that the Founder 
of our religion neither deceived himself, nor was en- 
deavouring to deceive others — that he was neither 
an impostor, nor a madman, nor an enthusiast — it 
would follow, by a necessary consequence, that we 
who believe in his pretensions, cannot have been 
deceived. Accordingly, if we examine any work 
upon the Evidences, we may observe that this is 
the point at which the discussion always ends. After 
the argument to prove the authenticity of the books 
of the New Testament has been gone through, the 
remainder of the reasoning is uniformly consumed in 
proving, that the Founder of the Gospel could not 
have intended to deceive. 

This is the true meaning of all the disquisitions 
which we read concerning the sublime morality which 
Christ taught ; the reasonableness of his doctrine, the 
wisdom of his sayings ; the spotless purity of his life ; 
the consistency and perfection of his character : — all 
these arguments reach only to this conclusion. No 
one would contend that Christ was the Son of God, 
because he was meek and patient, and wise, and free 
from every taint of sin. The argument is, that no 
man who was all this, would have said that he was 
the Son of God, when he was not ; nor have pretended 
to miraculous powers, if he had not really possessed 

And here it may be asked, is not this legitimate 



reasoning ? Do not the qualities displayed in the 
character of Christ, as exhibited in the delineation 
which the Evangelists have left us of his portraiture, 
really refute the accusation of the Jews? We 
answer, that in any ordinary case, they would, 
beyond doubt, have done so. And they would do so 
in his case, if it could be demonstrated by any direct 
and infallible argument, that they were real, and 
not assumed. But we must bear in mind, that the 
case of our Saviour was no common case, and can- 
not be tried by any common rules. Many other 
pretensions were asserted by him, besides that of 
working miracles. He pretended to a power on 
earth to forgive sins ; he pretended to have been 
always in the world before Abraham was born ; that 
those who believed in him should never die, but have 
eternal life ; that all power, both in heaven and earth, 
was committed to him ; " making himself," in short, 
according to an expression of the Jews, " equal with 

Now, be the apparent sincerity and virtue of any 
human being what they may, if the question be 
brought to this issue, that we must either conclude 
them to be assumed, or believe in his title to such 
high pretensions as these assertions imply, — however 
difficult the alternative might seem to our judgment, 
yet would the latter supposition appear to be so be- 
yond measure improbable, that there would hardly 
be room for any liberty of choice. Putting the case 
thus nakedly and in the abstract, — if the same circum- 


stances were to be acted over again in the world, 
mankind upon this statement would believe, that 
either there was fraud in the case, or fanaticism ; 
nothing could overcome such a suspicion, except it 
had been first shewn, that all solutions of this kind 
were impossible. 

Bearing then in our minds these general remarks, 
let us now come to the case which the Gospel pre- 
sents, as the facts are described in the New Testa- 

I will not here enter upon the often debated 
questions, whether the truth of a doctrine may be 
proved by miracles, or the truth of miracles by the 
doctrine. The Jews had repudiated the doctrine of 
Christ ; they had slighted the miracles which he per- 
formed ; they had dragged him before the supreme 
magistrate, as a cheat and a deceiver of the people. 
Another fact is, that at this time there was an un- 
fulfilled prophecy among the Jews, not known to the 
tt, c<n^'^ *>. nation at large, or not understood, which stated that 
"" ^ the future JNIessiah was to suffer death by violence, 
. and by a judicial sentence : he was to " be taken 
fi'om prison and from judgment, and to be cut oft' 
from the land of the living." 

The above are not points of opinion, but matters 
of fact;. Assuming then the premises, I propose to 
show, that the sentence executed upon Jesus, was, 
under these circumstances, the means by whicli the 
charge made against him was demonstratively refuted. 
I am tempted to add, that in his particular case, there 


existed no other means, by which it could have been 
certainly disproved. The proof here alleged, was not 
a direct proof that Jesus was the Messiah ; it was not 
a direct proof that he had really performed the 
miracles which he asserted ; but I mean to show, 
that it was a direct and absolute demonstration of 
what comes to the same thing, — namely, that when 
he put forth these pretensions, he was neither 
acting under a delusion himself, nor endeavouring 
to practise any upon others ; but that he believed 
what he asserted, and could not be mistaken in his 

If our Saviour had intended to deceive the Jews 
into an opinion, that he was that long-promised 
Messiah, for whose coming they were waiting with 
so much anxiety, it is quite certain, that he would 
have conformed the proof of his pretensions, to the 
expectation and belief of the persons, upon whom 
the fraud was to be attempted. Or if he had ven- 
tured upon a new interpretation of the prophecies 
on which the expectation of the Jews, respecting the 
Messiah, was founded, it would have been contrived 
with the view of flattering, and not of shocking, their 
prejudices ; of conciliating still further their support, 
and not of needlessly exciting opposition. 

For example : — knowing that the Jews expected 
their Messiah to be one of their own nation, no im- 
postor would have gone out of his way, to assume 
the character of a Greek or a Roman. Knowing that 
they expected him to be born at Bethlehem, he 


would not falsely have pretended to be a native of 
Samaria. Knowing that they expected him to be of 
the lineage of David, he would not have given him- 
self out, as one of the posterity of Jeroboam, the son 
of Nebat, " who made Israel to sin." By parity of 
reasoning, knowing that the Jews expected their 
future king to come surrounded with regal state 
and to assume the throne of Israel, it is still more 
certain, that no impostor would have rejected such 
an interpretation of their ancient oracles, — one offer- 
ing so many temptations to an ambitious or design- 
ing man, — for the mere vanity of being the author of 
a new interpretation, which should import that the 
future Messiah, instead of being a mighty potentate, 
was to present himself in a character, which was 
nearer akin to that of an outcast and a beggar, than 
of a king or conqueror. 

However, as there is no reasoning upon any cer- 
tain data, when the actions and motives of human 
beings are the subject in discussion — let us suppose 
this possible. Very incredible it certainly is ; but 
we may not perhaps say that the supposition is im- 
possible, — that it would involve a contradiction. But 
in the case where we are speaking of a presumed 
imposture, it plainly would be a contradiction of the 
hypothesis, to suppose that any one, whose object 
was to persuade mankind to receive him in a parti- 
cular character, would knowingly take up, and not 
only take up, but absolutely persist, at every sacri- 
fice, in a line of conduct which must sclf-evidently 


defeat the very end which he was fraudulently 
aiming to attain. 

I have here put the case as strongly as the argu- 
ment requires ; but not so strongly as the fact. In 
the instance of Jesus Christ, if we assume the opi- 
nion of the Jews to have been true, not only are we 
to suppose, that he was fixing upon the prophecies 
relating to the Messiah, a sense of his own, in oppo- 
sition to the universal persuasion of those, whom he 
meant to deceive ; a sense which involved the re- 
nunciation of every object, which can be conceived 
to stimulate the ambition of a supposed impostor ; a 
sense, moreover, which directly and palpably thwarted 
his professed design : — but a sense which entailed 
the supposition of his being put to a painful and 
ignominious death ; and this not as a possible conse- 
quence, but as the very postulate on which the success 
of his fraud depended. Do the annals of man- 
kind supply, or has any one met, in his own expe- 
rience, with the case of such an attempt to deceive 
mankind as this, having been ever practised ? Cer- 
tainly, no miracle could be more contrary to the 
course of nature, than such a supposition as has here 
been made would be, to the first principles of the 
human mind. 

1 have been reasoning on the impossibility of 
explaining the conduct of Jesus Christ, by sup- 
posing that he intended to deceive others. But 
perhaps it will be said, that he may have been 
deceived himself ; in other words, he may have 


been an enthusiast, a fanatic, or perhaps a madman. 
A. As no difficulty is so great as the belief that he 
' really was, what he pretended to be; if this can be 
disproved, it may not seem to matter, by what prin- 
ciple we account for his motives. 

Now I cannot but think, that in refutation of 
this hypothesis, we may, on the strictest rules of 
reasoning, appeal to the history of Jesus Christ. 
Though the wisdom of his instructions, the purity 
of his life, the calmness and majestic simplicity of 
his deportment, in every circumstance, however try- 
ing and affecting, may not warrant us in affirming 
that he was ' more than a God,' according to 
the expression of a celebrated French writer; yet 
are they, at least, sufficient to show, that he was not 
' less than a man.' In fact, the religion of which 
he was the unquestionable Founder, furnishes a suffi- 
cient answer to such a conjecture, if we could sup- 
pose it to be gravely put forth. But there is a 
circumstance, belonging to the death of Jesus Christ, 
which at once removes his case out of the reach of 
every sort of suspicion ; a circumstance which makes 
every supposition, of fraud, or delusion, or madness, 
or enthusiasm, all equally impossible. 

The death of Jesus Christ was not the effi^ct of 
suicide, like that of Peregrinus, the crack-brained 
philosopher, of whose self-martyrdom at the Olymjiic 
games, in emulation of our Saviour, Lucian has 
written an account. Christ did not raise a funeral pile 
with his own hands, and invite all the people of 



Judea to witness, in his person, the fulfihnent of the 
prophecies. His death was in pursuance of a judi- 
cial sentence, inflicted not by his own hands, but by 
the hand of the public executioner, and at the insti- 
gation of his bitter enemies. In no other way could 
the prophecy have been fulfilled ; for the Messiah 
was not to die a natural death, nor by his own act ; 
though innocent, (for it was carefully stipulated that 
" he was to commit no violence, neither was deceit 
to be in his mouth,") yet was he to be " numbered 
among the transgressors ;" he was to be " taken from 
prison and from judgment," and " led like a sheep 
to the slaughter." 

Put the case then as we please : suppose Christ to 
have been both an imjiostor, and a madman, and an 
enthusiast, all in one ; yet how was he to accom- 
plish his purpose ? In what way was he to bring 
about the completion of the prophecy, on which he 
grounded his pretensions? The design, it may be 
admitted, might have entered into the head of a 
madman, though of a madman only. But it would 
require more ingenuity than the wisest man might 
possess, to have carried it into execution. For by 
what artifice, or under what conceivable pretence 
was he, without committing any offence, such as 
would confute his claims, to engage his enemies, the 
Jewish rulers, and not only them, but the Roman 
governor and the whole body of the people, to con- 
spire with him in so insane a conspiracy ? 

The absurdity here stated will be equally apparent. 


whether we suppose Christ to have been endeavouring 
to deceive others, or to have been himself deceived. 
But on this last supposition, another difficulty pre- 
sents itself — in the miracles which he worked, or 
pretended to have worked. These might be either 
true or false ; but whether they were the one or the 
other, was a question respecting which, his own judg- 
ment could not have been deceived. Enthusiasm 
might mislead a man to believe, that he was a pro- 
phet ; that he was favoured with divine revelations ; 
and under the effect of partial insanity, it is impossible 
to say, what a man might not believe in this way. 
No explanation however of that sort is applicable to 
the miracles, which Christ pretended to have wrought. 
If they were fictitious, the charge of enthusiasm or 
insanity, may be fixed on those who were so credu- 
lous as to believe them ; but as against the agent, 
the charge must be that of fraud. 

We have before seen that this charge may be 
refuted, from the nature of things. Combining the 
history of Christ's death, as related by the Evan- 
gelists, with the predictions of the Old Testament, it 
is a fact which makes the accusation of imposture 
impossible. It would be difficult to mention any 
conclusion, (the denial of which does not involve a 
mathematical absurdity,) which I should deem more 
certain. The prediction of Isaiah may, or may not, 
have been a divine prediction ; it may, or may not, 
have signified the death and passion of the Messiah ; 
but if such an interpretation was put upon it by 


Christ, in opposition to tho whole body of his coun- 
trymen, be lie what he might, he was no impostor. 
It would less shock our reason and common sense to 
believe, that the history of his death, as we read it in 
the New Testament, was only a fable, invented pur- 
posely by his disciples, in order to make that opinion 

To refute such an hypothesis as this would seem 
like trifling ; nevertheless it is the only one, as far 
as I can see, to which an adverse party can resort. 
We know, however, that the death of Christ was 
a real transaction. It was a public act, and has been 
recorded by Tacitus, among the events which hap- 
pened under the reign of the Emperor Tiberius. 

When we read this part of our Saviour's history, 
as it is told in the New Testament, — so natural is the 
sequence of events, — so artless is the narrative, — the 
incidents are so simple and so probable, — that the true 
character of this marvellous transaction is often not 
duly felt and understood. Occupied with our own 
painful feelings, and with amazement at the deep 
iniquity of the human heart, the mind is made to 
lose sight of the event itself We see nothing strange 
or wonderful in it, nothing passing belief or re- 
quiring explanation. But take away the narrative of 
the Apostles ; say nothing about, how the event came 
to pass ; leave to the imagination only the dry fact 
which Tacitus mentions, — that the " author of the 
Christian name was one Christ, who had been punished 
with death in Judea, under the procuratorship of 



Pontius Pilate ;" — and I doubt whether so extraordi- 
nary a fact would have been credited on his bare 
authority. Many persons would have been tempted 
to class it among the many vulgar errors, with which 
history abounds. That such a religion as that of the 
Gospel, — so pure, so elevated, so free from every 
baser mixture of human weakness or passion, should 
have had its rise in such a beginning, so opprobrious 
in itself, and so little ominous of its rapid and per- 
manent success, — would be deemed a legend and not 
a history. 

And indeed, even with the narrative of the New 

/ Testament before us, if the curtain had dropped at 
) the closing scene of our Saviour's life on earth, the 

( after-establishment of Christianity would have seemed 
an event surrounded with mystery and apparent con- 

/ tradiction. For it would have been asked — Why, 
after his own nation had put him to death, as a 
deceiver of the people, should the rest of mankind 

/ have taken up his cause, and have agreed to pay him 
divine honours ? 

Admitting the truth of all that is related of Christ ; 
acknowledging the wisdom of all that he said, and 
the reality of all the actions ascribed to him ; accept- 
ing his character, as it has been described to us by 
his immediate followers; believing his death upon 
the cross to be a sufficient testimony in proof of his 
just title to be that " prophet who should come into 
the world :" — yet these fiicts only prove tlio <liviiio 
commission of Christ ; they atlbrd a general fouiKJa- 


tion of belief; but, taken by themselves, they demon- 
strate no particular truth, no specific doctrine. 

The death of our Saviour on the cross, for exam- 
ple, does not necessarily lead to a belief in the 
doctrine of his atonement ; and the interval between 
any fact related of him by the Evangelists, and the 
belief in his divinity, is wider still. That both these 
truths, as well as others which are now received by 
all the Christian world, were asserted by the Apostles, 
is a matter too plain to stand in need of discussion. 
But it may be said, that these are not common truths ; 
that they are doctrines which require other confirm- 
ation besides the memory or the opinion of the 
Apostles. Difficult as it may seem, to imagine them 
in error, they may have been mistaken. Whether 
we, in the present day, are at liberty to suppose this, 
is I think, a question ; but certainly mankind were 
authorized to propose this doubt to the Apostles \ 
themselves ; and, as we may see in their writings, did 
propose it. 

When the Apostles, then, affirmed these doctrines, / 
on what ground did their assurance rest ? The nar- 
rative plainly shews that it was on some evidence 
which was brought to their knowledge, subsequently 
to the death of Christ. The allusions of Christ to 
his real character, to the suiFerings which awaited 
him, and to the spiritual nature of his future king- 
dom, were certainly not comprehended by his 
disciples at the time when they were made. It was 
afterwards that their minds were opened to the true 



understanding of the Scriptures, in relation to these 
as well as other points. But how, it is natural to 
inquire, could they be infallibly certain that they 
had not mistaken the true meaning of our Lord's in- 
structions to them ? or, supposing no room to exist 
in their own minds, for any doubts of this kind, yet 
by what evidence could they remove such doubts 
from the minds of others ? Such doubts might be 
unreasonable ; but whether reasonable or not, be- 
yond all question tliey would be felt and ])roposed ; 
for there is abundant evidence to shew, that they 
are not always unfelt, even in the present day. It 
was important, then, that the Apostles should have 
been provided with the means of answering all such 
doubts, whether in their own minds, or in the minds 
of others. 

If we carefully examine the Scriptures, we shall 
see, that even on the occasion of revelations far less 
material, God did not use to leave himself " without 
a witness." When Peter was commanded in a trance, 
three times repeated, no longer to confine his preach- 
ing to the Jews, a revelation was made at the same 
time to Cornelius, under circumstances which could 
leave no doubt in the minds of either, as to the 
reality of the Divine communication. Here, then, 
the belief of Peter was not founded on the fallible 
evidence of his own individual conviction ; but on a 
testimony, which demonstrated the miraculousness of 
the communication. So likewise, in the conversion 
of St. Paul ; the certainty of the Apostle in the 



reality of the call which he had received, was not 
l^ermitted to rest, only on the evidence of his own 
senses, or on that of those who accompanied him, — 
even though he was struck blind, by the effect of the 
light which sliined round about him. The minute 
directions which he received, after they had been 
confirmed by the corresponding vision of Ananias, 
could not be mistaken, and must necessarily have 
removed every doubt from his own mind. If others 
had disbelieved his story, it must have been because 
they doubted his veracity, and not because they 
thought he was himself deceived. Assuming that 
what he said was true, his having been called by 
divine revelation to be an Apostle, was not to be 
questioned. There might be, on the part of others, 
a suspicion of collusion ; but there could be no mis- 
take of any sort in his own mind. 

Just so it was, as I shall now proceed to explain, 
in the great doctrine of Christ's divinity. The truth 
of this important article of faith, in the minds of 
the first disciples, did not rest, for its proof, upon 
this or that text of Scripture ; not upon the meaning 
of words, but, as we shall see, upon the direct witness 
of God ; expressed in acts of divine power, such as 
left room for no debate about the reasoning or the 
judgment of the Apostles. 




We have seen that all those predictions of the Old 
Testament, considered by the Jews as the marks or 
notes of the Messiah, which related to the nation, and 
tribe, and family, from which he was to spring, the 
place of his birth, and time of his appearing, were 
negative — invented, to prevent any deception or mis- 
take, rather than to lead the minds of the Jews to 
any positive knowledge. I have not mentioned the 
crucifixion among those marks, because it was not 
reckoned among them by the Jews who lived before 
Christ ; although it was foreshewn, in terms beyond 
all comjmrison more clear and unambiguous than the 
others, and was, in its own nature, infinitely the most 
important of any. 

But this last mark also was negative, and not 


affirmutive. Except in the circumstantial particu- 
lars, there was nothing in the fact itself, by which 
it would have been distinguished from the death 
of Socrates, or of many other wise and good men, 
who have fallen victims to the prejudices and pas- 
sions of a misguided multitude. Nothing of a ini- 
raculous kind had been predicted of it. Nor does 
it appear, from the narrative, that it happened con- 
trary, in any respect, to the usual course of nature. 
What invested the death of our Saviour with its 
peculiar character, was his almost immediate re- 
appearance upon earth, in the self-same body, as to 
all outward and visible form, as had been deposited 
in the grave. It was this last, which stamped the 
whole event with the evidence of a Divine inter- 
position, and connected it with the scheme of the 
Jewish prophecies. This it was, which furnished a 
key to those parts of them, in which the sufferings 
of the Messiah were foretold. 

From this epoch, the same remark must be applied 
to many other incidents which are related by the 
Apostles. The manner of his death, by piercing his 
hands and feet ; the gall and vinegar which were 
given him to drink ; the division of his garments ; 
the purchase of the potter's field with the price of 
his blood ; — though all of them, within the ordinary 
course of nature, — from the moment that they were 
believed to have been foretold, became likewise 
miraculous in the apprehension of mankind. 

The great and leading subject of the prophecies 



of the Old Testament, is not, however, the person 
of the Messiah, nor his divine character; but the 
blessings of thj^t future kingdom, which he was 
to come into the world to establish. Now the 
truth of a prophecy admits only of one proof, which 
is, its fulfilment. Before a proj)liecy has been ful- 
filled, we may believe that it was delivered by 
Divine inspiration, from the previous fulfilment of 
other prophecies, proceeding from the same quarter, 
(and this was the ground on which the Jewish 
expectation of a Messiah was built) ; nevertheless, we 
cannot, before the event, know as a fact, that it was 

Accordingly, had our Saviour, when he re-apjieared 
upon earth after his resurrection, come surrounded 
with all the pomp of earthly power and dominion ; 
had he, that is to say, literally ascended the throne 
of his father David, and reduced all the neighbour- 
ing nations to subjection : — in this case, no one, and 
least of all (notwithstanding the part they had re- 
cently taken), would the Jews, have called in ques- 
tion the identity of his person and kingdom, with 
the person and kingdom of that mysterious indivi- 
dual, whose advent they had so long expected. We 
see, then, at once the point on which the controversy 
between them and the Apostles turned. 

At first sight, the ground upon which the latter 
stood, would seem very difficult of defence. The 
Ai)ostles spoke of a spiritual kingdom ; of an un- 
substantial throne erected in the heavens; of a 


power and dominion, whose insignia were invisible. 
But how, the Jews might ask, was the reality of all 
this to be demonstrated ? By what tests, could 
the fulfilment of such a prophecy as this be ascer- 
tained ? Admitting that all authority in heaven 
and earth, had been committed to Christ, as Head 
of the Church, — yet how could the Apostles know 
it to be true ? In Limborch's account of his 
controversy with Orobio, the Jew urges this very 
point : — " Cum ccelestia sensibilia non sunU non aliunde 
suam certitudinem probare poterant quam ca' promis- 
smnim clara et aperta adimpletione : quce cum nonfueriU 
ccetera quce referuntur suspeda fueruntr — Scrip. Tert. 
p. 147. 

The difficulty is not to be dissembled. Suppos- 
ing the sense put upon this part of the prophe- 
cies by the first Christians, and not that pat upon 
it by the Jews, to have been the true sense ; or 
supposing the prophecies themselves to have been 
as clear and as free from obscurity, as any proposi- 
tion can be, which is expressed in words : yet in 
what possible way, could mankind obtain any direct 
knowledge of the fact ? How could they be made 
cognizant, while in this world, of the actual truth 
of that part of the Old Testament, in which the 
future revelation of Christ's spiritual authority was 
foreshewn ? Even now, when so many nations or 
the earth are called by his name, these questions 
may be proposed; but in the days of the Apostles, 
they evidently constituted the very substance of the 


To a pious mind, the difficulty here stated is per- 
haps t)f 110 serious moment. It is readily admitted, 
that there must be many facts relating to the un- 
seen M orld, and to other states of existence, which, 
with our present faculties, we are unable to com- 
prehend or conceive ; and many, which even if they 
could be made intelligible, we can yet never know to 
be true, from the impossibility of obtaining the sort 
of data, from which all human knowledge must be 
drawn. Such propositions, however, may be the 
objects of divine faith ; and this, of which I am 
now speaking, has usually been numbered in that 

Nothing can be farther from my thoughts than 
to call in question this principle of belief, which is 
one on which we are daily obliged to act. But in 
the case before us, it is a way of thinking, which 
belongs to persons born and bred in the doctrines 
of the Gospel. If we put ourselves in the position 
of those to whom the Apostles addressed themselves, 
it will be apparent, that a belief in Clirist's divinity 
could hardly have been established, in the first in- 
stance, on this principle. Pure and spotless as is 
the portraiture of Jesus Christ, as delineated in the 
New Testament; and wonderful as are the actions 
which are there ascribed to him ; yet there is nothing 
in his life, or in the manner of his death, which by 
themselves, would have warranted such a conclu- 
sion. So long as the question related only to the 
credibility of his testimony, respecting the commands 


or the promises of God, ample foundation was laid 
for the faith of his followers. And so they appear 
to have judged. But when he changed the ground, 
and hinted at the great truth of his divinity, that 
was deemed a hard saying; and accordingly the 
Evangelists tell us, that many of them thenceforth 
turned aside from following him. 

I am not now discussing whether they were right 
or wrong, but am examining a matter of fact. We 
know that within a very short period from this time, 
the belief of his followers was, on this point, entirely 
changed. From whence did this proceed ? What 
was the evidence, on which this rapid change of 
opinion was founded? We have seen that during 
the lifetime of Christ, the minds of his followers 
were not enlightened as to his true character. And 
during the few days which intervened between his 
death and resurrection, even the qualified opinion 
which they had formed, of his being their future 
king, would seem to have vanished from their 
thoughts. It is not less certain, that no knowledge 
of the real truth had penetrated their minds, during 
the interval between his resurrection and final dis- 
appearance from among mankind. Even when he 
had explained to the disciples at Enimaus, and 
afterwards to others of them, "all things which 
were written in the law of Moses, and in the 
prophets, and in the psalms concerning him," still 
their imaginations were unable to grasp so extraor- 

1 88 ON THE PROOF OF christ's authority, [lect. 

dinary a fact ; their understandings still remained 
covered with a veil. For the last words which they 
addressed to Christ, as St. Luke tells us, the very 
instant before his ascension, shewed that their minds 
were yet in darkness. " Lord," said they, " wilt 
thou at this time restore again the kingdom to 
Israel ?" Implying, that, even then, they looked 
upon our Saviour as one, who was to be an earthly 
prince and ruler. 

If we reflect for a moment, we shall see that all 
this was in strict accordance with every opinion we 
can form of the human mind. So long as Jesus 
Christ continued to mix with his disciples in a human 
form, no impression upon their understanding was, 
or could have been, of power to countervail the evi- 
dence of their senses. I am persuaded that, under 
such circumstances, a supposition of the divinity of 
Christ was beyond the compass of human belief: — 
it was, I would almost say, an impossible conception. 
The ascension of our Lord into heaven, and his being 
received out of the sight of his disciples, almost while 
the w^ords I just now adverted to, were yet on their 
lips, may be thought to have put a final stop to all 
hopes of a temporal kind. But between the renounc- 
ing such expectations, and the belief of his being 
seated at the right hand of God : — who " hath highly 
exalted him, and given him a name which is above 
every name ; that at the name of Jesus every knee 
should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, 


and things under the earth ^ :" — the distance is not to 
be measured. 

The conclusion from all this needs hardly to be 
pointed out. Since the belief of the Apostles, and 
of the other disciples of our Lord, in the doctrine of 
his divinity, had no existence in their minds, until 
after all direct intercourse between them and Christ, 
was to every outward appearance entirely cut off, — it 
would appear to follow, that the reasoning on which 
it was grounded, be it what it might, must necessarily 
have been drawn from some proof, which was inde- 
pendent of their previous opinions ; and which must 
have come to their knowledge, at a subsequent stage 
of the evidence. 

A truth is only then said to be demonstrated, 
when such a proof has been adduced, as will compel 
the person denying it, to affirm an absurdity. In this 
sense it may seem, that to speak of demonstrating 
the divinity of Christ, would be contrary to common 
sense. I shall not, therefore, use such an expression. 
Nevertheless I think it may be shown, that a person 
who admits the facts related in the New Testament, 
(putting upon the words any construction he pleases, 
which is not confessedly impossible,) and yet affirms 
the mere humanity of Christ — or supposes that w^hen 
he left this world, he took upon him only the nature 
of angels, — will be compelled to embrace a sup- 
position, approaching as nearly to an absurdity, as 

'Philip, ii. 9, 10. 



any practical proposition in divinity well can do. I 
have limited my remark in this viay, not because the 
facts 1 am about to state, do not imply any thing 
more than the non-humanity of Christ ; but because, 
this being granted, the Apostles demonstrated his 
proper dimnity on other, and, as they considered it, 
more direct testimony. 

It might be difficult to show, one by one, of every 
particular miracle ascribed to Christ, that each of 
them was separately believed, by all Christians, from 
the beginning. But a belief of his resurrection, of 
his ascension, of the descent of the Holy Ghost on 
the day of Pentecost, and of the miraculous powers 
of the Apostles and others generally among the early 
Christians, was certainly universal. This is an his- 
torical truth which no one, except through ignorance, 
is likely to call in question. Assuming then a belief 
in these facts, on the part of the Apostles and their 
contemporaries, — what I now propose is, to point out 
the connection between it and the belief in the reality 
of that regal power and authority, Avhich, from the 
days of the Apostles to the present time, Christ has 
always been supposed to exercise over the affairs of 
his visible church ; and the actual assumption of 
which, has ever since been considered, as the fulfil- 
ment of that long train of prophecies, in which the 
future kin<jdom of the Messiah was foreshown. 

It is plain, both from the Acts and Epistles, that 
not only the Apostles themselves, but likewise many 
of the disciples, were endued, or (which is the same 


thitig in the present argument) believed themselves 
to be endued, and were believed to be so by others, 
with various miraculous gifts. These gifts, moreover, 
are never sjioken of, as the result of any virtue or 
authority inherent in themselves, but are uniformly 
attributed to the power of Jesus Christ. 

Thus, when St. Peter cures the lame man at the 
Beautiful Gate of the Temple, he says, "Silver and gold 
have I none ; but such as I have give I thee : in the 
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk^" 
And afterwards, when the fame of the miracle had 
attracted the attention of the chief priests and rulers, 
he addressed them, saying, " Ye rulers of the people 
and elders of Israel, be it known unto you all and to 
all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus 
Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, M^hom God 
raised from the dead, even by him doth this man 
stand here before you w^hole." In another place the 
same declaration is made, but in terms still more 
distinct. For when the same Apostle cures ^neas 
of the palsy, we are told that Peter said unto him : 
" jEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole : arise, and 
take up thy bed." And he arose immediately. 

It would be easy to accumulate instances in which 
similar powers are exercised by the Apostles, and 
referred by them to the same cause : namely, to gifts 
imparted to them they knew not how, and by a hand 
which they could neither feel nor see, but which 

' Acts iii. 6. 


they considered to be Christ's. Admitting then the 
miracles described in the Acts, to have been really 
wrought; and supposing the Apostles to have had 
solid reasons for saying, that the power of working 
them proceeded directly from his invisible agency, — it 
will not, I think, be denied that in this case, a suffi- 
cient ground w^ould be laid for the interpretation 
which was put by them on this part of the prophecies. 

What the nature of the authority delegated to 
Jesus Christ in heaven might be, or how far it ex- 
tended, it might not be easy to determine ; but that 
he was still alive, — that he was invested with divine 
powers, of some sort, — that his spiritual authority over 
his followers had not been withdrawn, — must have 
seemed to be a fact, the belief of which was not to 
be resisted. If, after he had ceased to be numbered 
among the inhabitants of this world, a spiritual in- 
tercourse between him and those who believed in 
his name, continued to be kept up; if the same power 
to suspend the laws of nature, which he had exer- 
cised upon earth, still remained with him, and was 
still made manifest, in the gifts communicated by him 
to those, who were left in charge, with the duty of 
spreading abroad the knowledge of his religion ; — such 
a supposition abundantly accounts for the belief of the 
Apostles, respecting the reality and nature of Christ's 
continued presence and authority in his Church. 

For it should be observed, that it was not a 
simple case of spiritual agency. We may sujipose 
the faculties of su])erior spirits to be as boundless 


as we please. If once tlio hypothesis be admitted, 
that they are permitted to interfere with the laws of 
God's material world, it may be difficult to say tliat 
any particular miracle is beyond the compass of their 
power to bring about. Nevertheless, we may confi- 
dently assert, that the present case exceeds any hypo- 
thesis which can be legitimately proposed. What- \ 
ever powers, or whatever faculties, created spirits may / 
be deemed to possess, yet it is from God that they | 
1 ave received them : they are the gifts of Him who 
made them, and not the effect of their own skill 
and knowledge, any more than the instincts of the 
meanest insect, are the result of its own handy work. 
Allowing therefore the natural powers of other orders 
of beings to be ever so different from ours, or ever so / 
superior, yet no one, I, think, will suppose that they ■ 
are able to impart them to other finite beings like 
themselves : this w^ould indeed be to usurp the pre- 
rogative of God — the act not of a merely spiritual, 
but of a creative being. j 

If then the miraculous gifts exercised by the 
Apostles, were communicated to them by Christ, — he 
must have existed, when he left this world, not in his 
human nature, not in the nature of an angel or / 
spirit ; but in a nature which, if not divine, we are \ 
unable to define in any other terms. 

But whence did the Apostles and first teachers of 
Christianity draw their proofs for saying, that the 
author of the miraculous gifts, exhibited by them- 
selves and others, was Jesus Christ ? Or, supposing 


them to possess such evidence as satisfied their 
own minds as to the cause, yet how were they to 
satisfy the minds, as it woukl seem they did, not 
only of the standers by, but of mankind in general ? 
It might have been the knowledge of secret arts ; 
it might have been fraud and collusion; it might 
have been the operation of some unknown cause or 
causes ; or even the immediate act of God himself. 
In the face of so many possible surmises, whence 
was the evidence obtained, by which the miracles 
in question, and all those gifts of the Spirit, of 
which we read so much, both in the Acts and 
Epistles, were shewn to have had Jesus Christ for 
their author ? 

Why, so many of the very same persons, who had 
refused to believe in Jesus Christ while he was alive, 
and working miracles in his own person, should have 
been made to acknowledge his authority after his 
death, will perhaps be explained, if we may suppose 
that other proof was afforded, on which to ground 
this conclusion, besides the belief and affirmation 
of his disciples : but where is this other proof to be 
found ? 

Now, if we are willing to takethe narrative which 
we find in the New Testament as our guide, this 
evidence may be readily produced. Admitting the 
data which that narrative presents, — the belief that 
God had given Christ " to be head of all things in 
his church," was founded upon reasons, fully connnen- 
surate both with the strength and universality of the 


belief itself, and with the importance of the conclu- 
sions, which were built upon it ; — and, I would add, 
upon reasons which involved no question of opinion, 
but a matter of fact, the truth or falsehood of which 
w^as in that age easy to be determined, and which 
certainly, was not likely to have been admitted merely 
on hearsay. 

The fact to which I am now alluding is, that great 
miracle of miracles, the descent of the Holy Ghost 
on the day of Pentecost. The account of it is given 
at length in the second chapter of the Acts. We are 
told that, " When the day of Pentecost was fully 
come, they were all with one accord in one place. And 
suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a 
rushing mighty wind ; and it filled all the house where 
they were sitting. And there appeared unto them 
cloven tongues, like as of fire ; and it sat upon each of 
them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, 
and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit 
gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at 
Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under 
heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the mul- 
titude came together, and were confounded, because 
that every man heard them speak in his own language. 
And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one 
to another. Behold, are not all these which speak 
Galileans ? And how hear we every man in our own 
tongue, wherein we were born ? Parthians and Medes, 
and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and 
in Judea, and Cappadocia, and Pontus, and Asia, 


Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts 
of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews 
and i)roselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear 
them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of 
God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, 
saying one to another, What meaneth this ? Others 
mocking, said, These men are full of new wine." 

Let me here observe that, always excepting the 
extraordinary and almost incredible character of the 
fact itself, which the above passage describes, there 
is no one note of truth which can be required in a 
narrative of facts, that is not to be found in the 
history of this event. 
K It is recorded in a writing, respecting the authen- 
ticity of which, it is not possible that any doubt 
should exist, in the mind of a competent judge. 
Over and above every external mark which can 
attach to a document of antiquity, and the entire 
absence of any counter-evidence : the numerous un- 
designed coincidences which Paley has pointed out 
between it and the Epistles of St. Paul, are such as, 
without any exaggeration, may literally be said to 
demonstrate, that it is not only a real, but also a 
contemporary history. 

Again, the fact itself was eminently public. It 

I was transacted in the open day, before numerous 
witnesses ; drew the attention of the multitude, at 

/ a time when Jerusalem was filled with tliousands 
( and ten thousands of strangers, collected from every 

j j)art of the world ; and, as we find a few verses 


further on, was the first cause of the belief in Chris- ) 
tianity spreading beyond the circle of Jesus Christ's 
immediate friends and followers. 

Moreover, if the event really happened, (which in 
some shape or other, seems to be almost demon- 
strable,) it would appear, from the very nature of the 
fact, to have been very strictly what the Jews termed 
" a sign from heaven ;" that is, a testimony free 
from all possible suspicion of fraud, or of forbidden 
arts of every kind, and such as nothing but Divine 
Power could have exhibited. " The multitude, when 
they came together," could not have been deceived as 
to the fact, when " every man heard them speak in 
his own language." No believer in the secrets of 
natural magic, was ever so extravagant, as to as- 
cribe to the possessor of them an authority over 
the laws of mind, as well as of matter. And with 
respect to those, on the other hand, who were the 
subjects of the miracle — we may observe, that it ad- 
dressed itself, not to their senses only, but to their 
personal consciousness. It left no room for demur 
or discussion ; it was at once visible in its attendant 
circumstances, and the proof of it was independent 
of external testimony. " Are not all these men 
which speak Galileans ? And how hear we every 
man in our own tongue, wherein we were born ?" 
Not the language of this nation or that, but, as the 
story goes on to say, Parthians, Medes, and Elam- 
ites, and the dwellers in every nation under 


St. Luke proceeds to describe the amazeinent, 
which seized upon the minds of the multitude, who 
assembled on this extraordinary occurrence; subjoin- 
ing a circumstance, which, in the case of events claim- 
ing to be miraculous is of great importance to the 
evidence : viz. the accompaniment of such an effect, 
as might have been expected to follow, supposing 
the whole to have been a real history, and to have 
been generally believed. After St. Peter had ad- 
dressed the crowd, which had assembled, as soon as 
what had happened became noised abroad, " then 
they that gladly received his word were baptized; 
and the same day there were added unto them about 
three thousand souls. And they continued stead- 
fastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and 
in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came 
upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were 
done by the apostles. And all that believed were 
together, and had all things common. And sold 
their possessions and goods, and parted them to 
all men, as every man had need. And they con- 
tinuing daily with one accord in the temple, and 
breaking bread from house to house, did eat their 
meat with gladness and singleness of heart : praising 
God, and having favour with all the people. And 
the Lord added to the Church daily such as should 
be saved." 

I have given the above passage at full length, 
to shew how emj)hatical a stress was laid u\mu this 
particular miracle, by the Apostles and early con- 


verts ; and how important a place it occupies, in the N 
history of their subsequent belief. Reasoning on 
what was their persuasion, assuredly a miracle more 
unambiguous in its nature, or more incontrovertibly 
stamped with the finger of Divine Power, could not 
have been exhibited before the eyes and imderstand- 
ings of mankind. And, therefore, when the his- 
torian tells us, that " from that day many signs and 
wonders were done by the apostles;" and when we 
find St. Peter addressing the assembled multitude and 
saying: — "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof 
we all are witnesses; therefore being by the right 
hand of God exalted, and having received of the 
Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath 
shed forth this, which ye now see and hear :" — we 
can no longer be at a loss to understand the im- 
mediate ground upon which, both the Apostles them- 
selves and those who entertained their opinion, 
regarded him, by whose unseen agency so extra- 
ordinary a miracle had been wrought, as an object 
of worship and adoration. That which we have now 
to explain is, not this conclusion itself, but the 
medium of proof, by which the Apostles were em- 
boldened to connect, so unhesitatingly, the wonderful 
event, which had just been transacted in the face 
of a promiscuous multitude of witnesses, with the 
person and invisible operation of Jesus Christ ; in- 
stead of ascribing it, in general, as might, at first 
sight, have seemed more natural, to the interposition 
of that Almighty power, to which St. Peter himself. 


in the twenty-second verse, attributes " the won- 
ders, and miracles, and signs," which were wrought 
by our Saviour wliile on earth, and before God had 
" highly exalted him." 

Now, there is no passage of the Old Testament, 
ill which the miracle of the descent of the Holy 
Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, is predicted; but 
oiily a general promise of the effusion of the Spirit, 
from which no specific knowledge was to be ob- 
tained ; least of all such a knowledge, as the pre- 

<^ A^-<''Sent case supposes. Neither, if we examine the 
miracle itself, can we point out any particular 

^iii^ / ^\ y ;rnark, from which the especial agency of Christ 

' ' ■' could have been certainly predicated. Joining all 

the circumstances together, there were, doubtless, 

' ^, general presumptions of the fact ; but they were 

^ ^tf^f- "ot such proofs as the magnitude of the case re- 

' '/' quired; not such even as the Apostles would have 

had reason to desire, and as the analogy of God's 
dealings on less important occasions, would justify 
us in expecting. Certainly they were not of a kind 
to silence the objections, which other and adverse 
parties would have been able to urge. 

But the Apostles were not left in a difficulty that 
was unprovided for, or unforeseen. Our Lord had 
told his disciples before his ascension, that " all 
power was committed to him in heaven and on 
earth." Before his death, he had consoled them, 
under the apprehension of his de])arture, by promis- 
ing that he would send to them, in his stead, " an- 


other Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth himself; 
who should teach them all things, and bring all 
things to remembrance, whatsoever he had said unto 
them." And in order that they might afterwards 
be in no doubt, as to the author of the gifts that 
should be imparted to them, he distinctly declared, 
that in this, the necessity of his departure was partly ' 
founded ; inasmuch as " if he went not away, the 
Comforter, whom he would send unto them from ^ 
the Father, would not come unto them ; but if he ' 
departed, he would send him unto them ;" assuring 
them at the same time, that he would not leave 
them without help, but "that he would be with 
them alway, to the end of the world." 

The proof of these promises was not to be doubt- 
ful ; but both the truth and the meaning of them 
would be understood at the proper season. " When 
the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you 
from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which 
proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." 
" When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he shall 
guide you into all truth ; for he shall not speak of 
himself — he shall glorify me ; for he shall receive 
of mine, and shall shew it unto you." " All things 
that the Father hath are mine ; therefore said I, 
that he shall take of mine, and shew it unto you." 

This is not the topic of one or two discourses of 
our Lord with his disciples, but was, in one form 
or another, the prevailing subject of almost all his 
closiuir comnmnications. " A little while and the 


world seeth me no more ; but ye shall see me." 
" A little while and ye shall see me, and again 
a little while, and ye shall not see me, because I 
go unto my Father." These things said he often 
to his disciples, repeatedly adding, that the reason 
of his impressing them upon their minds was, 
that when the things which he was speaking of, 
should come to pass, they might then recall his 
words to mind. " And now I have told you before 
it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye 
might believe." " But these things have I told you 
that when the time shall come, ye may remember 
that I told you of them." " These things have I 
spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended." 
" It is not for you to know the times, or the seasons, 
which the Father hath put in his own power. But 
ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is 
come upon you ; and ye shall be witnesses unto me, 
both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, 
and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And when 
he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he 
was taken up ; and a cloud received him out of their 

Such were the last words which our Saviour uttered 
upon earth; and when we connect them with all 
that had preceded and all that followed, it seems to 
me, that we can be at no loss to understand the 
ground on which the belief of the A])ostles was 
built, when they bade the house of Israel assuredly 
know that "God hath made that same Jesus whom 


ye have crucified both Lord and Christ," " far above 
all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, 
and every name that is named, not only in this world, 
but also in that which is to come." 

Our Saviour had bidden his disciples to remember, 
when the things of which he had spoken to them 
should come to pass, that he had told them before, 
in order that when they did come to pass, they 
might know that it was He. When therefore 
the time was come, and all things had come to 
pass, as their Divine Master foretold, — combining 
the fulfilment of his promises to them, with the re- 
cent facts of his resurrection from the grave, and 
subsequent ascension into heaven, in the open day, 
and before the eyes, not of the Apostles only, but of 
many witnesses, — I cannot but think that the first 
Christians were in possession of a sufficient founda- 
tion of fact, for asserting the fulfilment of the pro- 
phecies which related to the kingdom of the future 
Messiah ; and interpreting them, not according to 
that literal sense, which the previous expectation 
of the Apostles themselves, up to the very last 
moment, had led them to entertain ; but according* 
to that spiritual and higher meaning which the 
establishment of Christianity in the world has now 
demonstrated to be the true one ; and the proofs and 
certain signs of which, were exhibited in the mira- 
culous gifts and powers which Christ, in accordance 
with his promise, imparted, in various measures, to 
the Apostles and to the Church in general. 


We see then the evidence, on which the know- 
ledge of Christ's spiritual authority over his Church 
was originally founded. No better proof of the fact 
need be required, than that which the miraculous 
descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost 
supplied, supposing that amazing event to have been 
the work of Christ ; and it is difficult to understand 
what more convincing proof of this last could pos- 
sibly have been afforded, than the promises which 
he left with his disciples, before as well as after 
his resurrection. No proclamation of an earthly 
king's accession to his throne, could be more signifi- 
cant of the event, than was this first exercise of 
divine power on the part of Christ. Combined with 
his resurrection and ascension ; and with that lone 
chain of prophecy, by which the coming of his future 
kingdom was foretold, in language so far above the 
known realities of every earthly throne, — it afTords as 
ample and strong a foundation of belief in the doc- 
trine of Christ's spiritual authority over his Church, 
as the reason of man has a right, or, perhaps I should 
say, is able to demand. Supposing the doctrine to 
be true, our faculties remaining what they are, no 
higher or better evidence can be suggested ; — if we 
consider the nature of the proposition, it may be 
doubted whether, in the eye of natural reason, the 
proof of it would not antecedently have been deemed 

Peoi)le, it is true, will be found, mIio may deny 
that the facts, on which the proof depends, really 


happened ; who may disbelieve, that any promise of 
a Comforter was made by Christ to his disciples, 
before he left the world ; and may charge them with 
imposture, in pretending that the miraculous gifts of 
the Spirit continued to be possessed by the Church, 
for several years. Such pretences, it may be said, 
are impossible and absurd ; that is to say, the trutli 
of them would be contrary to our experience. Cer- 
tainly no such miraculous gifts are now possessed l)y 
the Church ; nor is there any reason why they should 
be. And if we take our experience for a standard, 
not only of what is probable or improbable, but of 
what is true or false, the facts we have been dwell- 
ing upon, may be rejected, no doubt, as impossible 
and absurd. It was precisely upon this ground, that 
the College of Cardinals at Rome, imprisoned Galileo 
for teaching, and made him, on his knees, " abjure, 
curse, and detest," as impossible and absurd, contrary 
to common sense and Scripture, the doctrine of the 
earth's diurnal motion. They were speaking not 
from their knowledge of God's works, but from their 
ignorance. , , As little is it from their knowledoe of 
God's will t^at men speak, when tliey deny the facts 
related in the New Testament. But be the subject 
what it may, men are not at liberty to reject specific 
evidence, in dependence upon any sweeping maxims ; 
least of all in the case of facts; for facts can no 
more be disproved than they can be proved, by 
general reasoning. 

Those who, without attempting to refute the evi- 


dence, deny the miracles of the New Testament as 
abstractedly/ incredible, seem often to forget that 
people had common sense and understanding in the 
days when the Apostles preached ; and, in truth, 
were no more likely to have believed in Christ's re- 
surrection and ascension, in the gift of tongues, or 
most of the other miracles described in the Gospels, 
if they had not really happened, than in the present 
day. At least, such belief would have ended with 
those upon whom the imposition had been practised ; 
it would not have been transmitted to their children, 
and handed down in perpetuity to the times we live 
in. Opinionum commenta delet dies, naturcB jiidicia 
confirmat^ is a maxim of experience, which, if applied 
to Christianity, will make it very difficult to believe, 
that it had no higher origin than that of ignorance 
and fraud. 

But all merely general assumptions, would at once 
have been met in the age when the Apostles lived. 
Those with whom /the w, reasoned were/not jat liberty 
to talk of the miracles, -ias mcredtble and absurd. # 
iIaJU^ The belief of God's intention to make a revelation 

to mankind was a ground, upon which all parties 
were then agreed; and this belief plainly involved 
a supposition of miraculous evidence. Moreover, 
the present existence of Christianity in the world 
is a proof, that there were probable grounds for 
that belief ; and if so, neither have we, in the ])re- 
sent day, a right to talk of the Christian miracles 
as incredible and absurd. Such an assumption, upon 

j4 -//y • -• -^ i.^^. ^y.^ 


every rule of reason, is most unwarrantable. It is 
quite plain, however, that if we suppose them to be 
true, and that we were reasoning with persons who 
so believed, in that case the particular conclusion 
drawn by the Apostles was altogether demonstra- 
ble. The argument cannot be stated more clearly 
than it is in St. Mark : " And he said unto them, 
Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to 
every creature. He that believeth and is baptized 
shall be saved ; but he that believeth not shall be 
damned. And these signs shall follow them that 
believe : in my name shall they cast out devils ; they 
shall speak with new tongues ; they shall take up 
serpents ; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall 
not hurt them ; they shall lay hands on the sick, and 
they shall recover. So then, after the Lord had 
spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, 
and sat on the right hand of God. And they went 
forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord w^orking 
with them, and confirming the word with signs fol- 
lowing. Amen." 

Such are the concluding words of St. Mark's 
Gospel. If the facts which he here states really 
happened, we need seek no further evidence to 
prove that the Promise delivered to mankind in the 
beginning, of a future king and deliverer, has been 
fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 



By revelation must be understood, the disclosure of 
certain truths and propositions, and not a mere 
exhibition of facts. Accordingly, we have seen, that 
the subject of the great original Promise which was 
made to mankind of a future Messiah, did not re- 
gard his person, nor the place of his birth, nor the 
family from which he was to spring, nor the actions 
which he was to perform ; — these were merely the 
circumstantial signs of its fulfilment; — that which 
it regarded was, the doctrines which mankind would 
thenceforth be instructed to believe, respecting the 
change of relation, in which the future generations 
of mankind would stand to God. 

I now j)ropose to assume as a fact, that the reve- 
lation which God had promised in the Old Testament, 


was delivered to mankind in tlie person of Jesus 
Christ; which revelation was completed, when "he 
was received up into heaven," and seated " at the 
right hand of God." But what was the final cause, 
the purpose of this extraordinary dispensation ? In 
other words, what was the communication made to 
mankind through Christ ? 

We all know that the subject of this communica- 
tion consisted of propositions very difficult to believe. 
When talked about by Christ, although his meaning 
was shrouded in words most cautiously chosen, the 
by-standers took up stones to stone him. In other 
places, he speaks of them, among his disciples, as 
things which would be too hard for them to bear; 
nor was it until after his death, that the true import 
of the sayings, which he had stored up in their me- 
mories, was revealed to their understandings. — What 
we want, therefore, to explain is, how it happened 
that the same propositions which, during the life- 
time of Christ, were too hard for the belief of his 
Apostles, became after his death so plain, as to be 
believed by the commonest of their followers. 

Except in the case of demonstrative reasoning, we 
must look, not only to the amount of direct proof; ^ 
that is, not only to the arguments for, but also to 
the arguments against. A fact, which is conformable 
to our customary experience, will be believed, on evi- 
dence which would be rejected, if brought to attest 
one, to which all experience is opposed. So it is also 
in matters of o[)inion. The same authority, which 



would obtain belief for truths which are agreeable 
to our notions of things, will be disregarded, when 
; alleged in support of propositions which we deem 
improbable. And applying this remark to the case 
of Christianity — it does not follow, that because in a 
given case, the evidence of our Saviour's miracles 
alone, might have been sufficient authority, for prov- 
ing that God had made a revelation to mankind ; 
therefore the same evidence would suffice, whatever 
we might suppose to be the doctrines of which it 
was said to consist. We have only to put a case, in 
which the doctrines were demonstrably immoral and 
hurtful to mankind, and no evidence, be it supposed 
ever so plain and conclusive, would avail to prove 
that they were from God. 

But if we were reasoning with persons, whose 
minds were possessed by prejudices and precon- 
ceptions, it would needs happen, that many things 
must seem, according to their notions, improbable 
or incredible, which would appear quite otherwise to 
men of wider thoughts, of more unbiassed judgments, 
and greater knowledge of the true princi])lcs of reason. 
This is an observation which we often have occa- 
sion to make when listening to objections against 
the doctrines of Christianity. They are mis-stated 
on one side, and misunderstood on the other, and 
propositions are described as contrary to reason, 
respecting which reason is perfectly silent. But what- 
ever the doctrines of the Gospel might have seemed 
in the abstract, yet, if we assume the truth of the 


facts on which they rest, all a-priori reasoning is at 
an end. It is no longer an abstract case that we 
have to consider. If those facts really happened, 
which are described by the writers of the New 
Testament ; if it be true that Christ, after his death, 
rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, and 
was the author of those miraculous gifts of which we 
read; and that all this was the completion of a series of 
prophecies communicated to mankind many genera- 
tions before ; — we are compelled to suppose that these 
things happened by design. There must have been 
some motive in the mind of God, some great object 
to accomplish, as regards the happiness of mankind, 
sufficient to explain so extraordinary a deviation from 
the course of things, and proportionate to the vast- 
ness of the means employed for its attainment. 

It is plain, that the revelation of some high and 
mysterious truth, is involved in the hypothesis of such 
evidence. Why was the Gospel preceded by a pre- 
vious dispensation and by a long chain of prophecy ? 
Why was the Messiah to suffer death upon the cross ? 
Why was he to be taken up into heaven? Why, 
after his disappearance from the sight of men, was 
he to be invested with divine power? And if so, 
for what end was a knowledge of the authority 
with which he was invested, miraculously communi- 
cated to mankind ? — Other similar questions may be 
proposed, the answer to which will be found ex- 
tremely difficult, on a supposition that Christ wg^ 
only a prophet and teacher, sent to enforce our 


obedience to the principles of morality, and to con- 
firm our belief of a future state, and of the other great 
truths of natural religion ; but by no means equally 
difficult, if MO suppose that the doctrines to be re- 
vealed, consisted of such truths as Christians have 
always believed ; and which, except on some such 
foundation as that just now described, could never 
have been established. In this view the doctrines of 
the Gospel cease to be abstractedly improbable. The 
evidence on which they were built may be deemed 
so ; but assuming that evidence, the probability of 
their divine authority would not be strengthened, but 
quite the contrary, if they had consisted only of pro- 
positions conformable to our antecedent opinions. 
In common language, this is often all that is meant 
by reason. But by this term, when properly defined, 
we mean to indicate the abstract relations of things ; 
— which, for any thing that we know, may be in- 
finite in number — and not merely such truths, as 
fall within the sup])Oscd natural limits of human 

We are now speaking, not about the proof of the 
divine origin of revelation, but about the proof of 
its doctrines — looking at the question, as we may 
suppose it to have stood in the days of the Apostles, 
and while the opinions of mankind, as to the subjcct- 
. matter of their preaching, were divided. And here 
it may be important to observe, that abstract objec- 
tions to the truth of n old-established religion, pre- 
tending to divine revelation, can bo urged only by 


those who reject its authority. Those who believe 
it to have come from God, may inquire what the 
doctrines are of which it consists ; but they are not 
at liberty to examine Avhether the doctrines are true, 
by any standard of what we deem probability. What 
St. Peter says of prophecy, applies still more forcibly 
to revelation in general. Admitting it to be divine, 
it is not "of private interpretation;" seeing "it came 
not by the will of men," but was delivered by " holy 
men of old," who " spake as they were moved by the 
Holy Ghost :" and their meaning is to be judged of, 
not by this or that man's opinion, but by the com- 
mon sense and understanding of mankind in general. "^ 
I am here speaking, of course, only of fundamental 
doctrines, and not of points which have evidently 
been left open, and the determination of which is not 

As the right understanding of this point is of 
much consequence, in the argument on which we 
are now entering : — before we proceed to examine 
the grounds on which the great truths of the 
Gospel were originally received by mankind, it will 
be well to stop and consider previously what the 
changes are, which have been introduced into this, 
as into every other part of the question, by the 
lapse of time. We have seen the manner in 
which it affects our reasoning in the case of the 
prophecies, and likewise in that of the miracles : — 
I shall now show, how largely it enters into the 


evidence, on which our belief of the doctrines is 

We read in Isaiah, " As the rain cometh down, 
and the snow from heaven, and returneth not 
thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it 
bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the 
sower, and bread to the eater : so shall my word 
be, which goeth out of my mouth. It shall not re- 
turn unto me void, but it shall accomplish that 
which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing 
whereto I sent it." The truth which is here 
enounced, contains as plain a maxim of reason, as is 
to be found in theology : viz. that God does nothing 
in vain, — that his purposes are yea and amen — that 
no design of his can be supposed to have mis- 
carried — that every thing which is from him, is 
as it was intended by him to be. I presume this 
to be a proposition which need not be formally 

Now, if the belief of the Jews in the divine in- 
spiration of their Scriptures and in the prophetical 
scheme, which they supposed them to contain, was 
founded in mistake ; and if all the actions ascribed 
to Christ in the New Testament, were either fabri- 
cated or had no connection with any religious ob- 
ject, there is an end of the question. There is no 
doubt, that the present belief of mankind in Christi- 
anity, took its rise in the credit attached to the })ro- 
phecies, and to the history of Christ ; but if noitlit-r 


the one nor the other had any thing to do with a 
divine revelation, it would be absurd to consider 
the belief of mankind as true, merely on account of 
its antiquity and wide diffusion. 

But take the contrary supposition. Assume the 
Jewish Scriptures to have been written under divine 
inspiration, for the express purpose of preparing 
mankind to receive a promised revelation ; and 
assume the miracles to have been really worked by 
God, in testimony of that purpose having been ful- 
filled — in that case, it follows that if we would 
know what that revelation was, we have only to 
ascertain what was, in the beginning, and has since 
continued to be, the belief of mankind. We are 
sure, that if it was God's word, " it did not re- 
turn unto him void ; but that it accomplished 
that which he pleased, and prospered in the thing 
whereto he sent it." It is quite certain, that the 
religion now established in the world, had Jesus 
Christ for its Founder. If, then, he was a Mes- \ 
senger divinely commissioned, it is not to be sup- 
posed, that the designs of the Almighty miscarried 
in his hands ; that God's purposes were defeated ; 
that the means which he provided for carrying his » 
long-promised design into execution, were improper, 
or insufficient, and not suited to the end. 

So improbable, in my apprehension, would such 
a supposition be, that if it could be shown to me, 
that the present belief of mankind, as regards the 


great and fundamental truths of Christianity, was 
irreconcilable with the real meaning of the writers 
of the New Testament ; — it would at once be decisive 
against the authority of the books. Whether they 
were written by those whose names they bear or 
not, if they did not contain the doctrine of our 
Lord's divinity, of his atonement, of his interces- 
sion, and other fundamental points which have 
always constituted the substance of what Christians 
believed, they would be of no authority in settling 
points of faith. Any hypothesis, which is not 
impossible, would be more probable than that God 
should have designed to make a revelation to the 
world — that he should have contrived a vast appa- 
ratus of types and prophecies, extending through 
many hundred years, for the purpose of awakening 
the expectation of mankind — that he should have 
sent the promised Messenger at the indicated time, 
and have invested him with miraculous powers of 
every kind, in attestation of his authority : — and yet, 
in the event, besides having failed in bringing man- 
kind to a belief in the truths, which he did reveal, 
should have brought them to a belief in truths, which 
were not only different from those which his Mes- 
senger was sent to^ communicate, but absolutely 
subversive of them/ It matters not how we might 
attempt to account for such a supposed result : — the 
hypothesis involves a contradiction in terms. We 
may understand the reasoning, right or wrong, by 

>C ^^^^ ' A 

f] / , 



which a person is led to reject Christianity alto- 
gether; but this kind of compromise between reason 
and revelation, is altogether inadmissible. 

The ground on which such a way of reasoning is 
defended, in this country at least, is a supposed 
misinterpretation of the true meaning of the Scrip- 
tures. But, as was just now observed, if they do 
not contain the doctrines, which the infinite majority 
of believing Christians, every where and in every 
age, have asserted, — this would merely lay a ground 
for impeaching their authority. We know, how- 
ever, that the infinite majority of Christians not 
only consent in believing the same great truths, 
but also in believing that they are to be found , 
written in the volume of inspiration. Here, then, 
the argument from prescription is of double force ; 
because, in a question which regards the meaning 
of language, be the subject-matter what it may, 
whether reason or religion, — custom, as every school- 
boy knows from his Horace, is an arbiter from whose 
decision there lies no appeal. 

Barrow quotes as a remark of Aristotle, that 
" what seems true to some men is somewhat proba- 
ble ; what seems so to the most, or to all wise men, 
is very probable ; what most men, both wise and 
unwise, assent to, doth still more resemble truth ; 
but what men generally consent in, hath the highest 
probability, and approaches near to demonstrable 
truth ; so near, that it may pass for ridiculous arro- 
gance and self-conceitedncss, or for intolerable obsti- 


nacy and perverseness, to deny it'." This mode of cal- 
culating moral probabilities, may perhaps be thought 
to require some qualification, when applied to abs- 
tract truths ; and perhaps, in other cases also, it 
may admit of exceptions ; but in the case, where the 
point in debate relates to the meaning of a writer's 
language, the rule is absolute. To contend, that the 
writers of the New Testament intended to convey 
any meaning except " that generally received," is a 
proposition which, on any other subject than re- 
ligion, reasonable people would not be found to 
argue. It is a position from which an adversary can 
never be driven, whether he is right or wrong; and 
therefore is, in fact, a surrender of the question. 

To return then to the argument: I had occasion 
to remark, in a preceding Lecture, that the great 
doctrines of the Gospel were not left to rest upon 
texts of Scripture, or the meaning of words, but upon 
the direct witness of God. In using these last words, 
I had in my mind, the resurrection of Christ, and 
his ascension into heaven, — taken in connection with 
the fulfilment of our Saviour's promise to his disci- 
ples, of the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day 
of Pentecost, and the miraculous gifts, which con- 
tinued with the Church for several succeeding years. 
These events I classed together as constituting one 
great fact, which supjilied the key, by means of 
which the true meaning of the Old Testament was 

' Serni. VIII. vol. ii. 


revealed. From this period, and not before, the 
sense of those parts of the prophecies which related 
to the divine nature of Christ, — the purpose of his 
death, — the offices which he continues to fill in re- 
lation to mankind, — was really understood by the 
disciples. It was then clear, that the words of in- 
spiration were to be interpreted in a spiritual man- 
ner ; that when the Scriptures speak of the kingdom 
of the Messiah, of his supreme authority over all 
nations and people, of the blessings which his people 
would enjoy, of the punishment which would fall 
upon his adversaries, — these expressions were to be 
referred, not to a visible dispensation of things, but 
to an invisible ; that is, to a future world, and not 
to this present life. 

If any person should speak of these propositions 
as absurd or impossible, he would display an evident 
ignorance of the proper meaning of the words. But 
certainly they are propositions not only very diffi- 
cult to conceive, but which even would seem at 
first sight to have been placed altogether beyond 
the reach of proof. The ascension of Christ, as we 
have said, and his subsequent unseen presence 
among his disciples, manifested as it was in so many 
visible effects, first oj)ened their understandings to 
the principle, on which the Scriptures of the Old 
Testament were to be interpreted ; but the truth 
of these facts did not involve a belief in all the 
other articles of the Christian creed. They ren- 
dered the supposition of them possible ; they en- 


titled the Apostles of Christ to a hearing from the 
Jews; and called upon -the last to wei^h carefully tho' <p 
arguments ; but if, after all, the Apostles , had been 
able to adduce no other evidence in confirmation 
of the doctrines which they preached, except their 
own honest and sincere conviction, that such was the 
true explanation of the facts — it is easy to see, from 
the very history itself, that their reasoning would 
not have succeeded. 

To our minds these doctrines are simply wonder- 
ful, or improbable — or, if we please, incredible. But 
to the minds of the Jews they were moreover unpa- 
latable in the highest degree, as directly contradicting 
all their dreams of national glory and superiority; 
and placing their chosen race, on the same level, in 
the eye of God, as the surrounding nations of the 
Gentiles. It may be difficult to state with exact- 
ness, what was the true weight of the evidence 
which the miracles afforded, in proof of such an 
unwelcome interpretation of the Promise made to 
their fathers ; but whatever the weight of it ought to 
have been, its actual effect was plainly not such as 
would have been produced by it, in the present age. 
It is, however, needless to examine this point. We 
are inquiring into the facts of the case ; and in this 
view the history of our Saviour's preaching, as well 
as that of the Apostles, is before us. From that we 
know, that he did not ask even the Apostles to 
believe in him, on the single authority of the mi- 
racles which he had wrought, or on his own assevera- 


tion; nor did they afterwards rest their preaching 
on the single proof, which their testimony supplied, 
to the things which he had said and done. 

" If I bear witness of myself," says Christ, " my 
witness is not true." " Search the Scriptures," says 
he, a little after, " for in them ye think ye have 
eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." 
" O fools," said he to his disciples at Emmaus, " and 
slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have 
spoken ! Ought not Christ to have suifered these 
things, and to enter into his glory ? And beginning 
at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto 
them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning 

If we turn to the preaching of the Apostles, the 
ground on which they placed the argument cannot 
for a moment be mistaken. They speak of the 
miracles which they performed, simply as proofs of 
Christ's presence among them. But when they reason 
concerning his offices and attributes, they do not 
appeal either to them, or to any supposed authority, 
which the possession of miraculous gifts might be 
thought to confer. St. Paul does not speak in the 
language of Isaiah ; he does not begin his epistles 
with " the word of the Lord came unto me, saying ;" 
or, " thus saith the Lord God of Hosts, the God of 
Israel;" but he addresses both himself and his 
hearers to the testimony of " the law and the pro- 
phets." Even when he is reasoning with the mem- 
bers of the Christian church, who were of course 


ready to acknowledge his apostolical commission, he 
speaks to them, as to persons who had been Jews 
like himself; showing from the Old Testament, that 
the only explanation of the wonderful events which 
they had witnessed and believed, was to be found in 
the truths which had been there foreshown, either in 
direct prophecies, or else under types and shadows, 
the true meaning of which, had till then been kept 

Whether this proof was legitimate or not, at least 
it was employed successfully. But I hope to show 
that it was not only legitimate, — that is to say, not 
only such evidence as, combined with the facts 
which they asserted, was sufficient to justify the 
conclusions which they drew, — but that it was the 
only kind of evidence, by which such propositions as 
the Apostles asserted were capable of proof. The 
possession of it affords the only explanation that can 
be given, of the success with which their commission 
was executed. Marvellous as this success was, yet 
we have only to assume the truth of the hypothesis 
on which they reasoned, and it will be fully and 
entirely explained. 

It may be convenient to call to mind, in this 
place, what was said in a former Lecture, where 
I illustrated the nature of the proof from pro- 
phecy, by supposing the case of an ambassador, 
deputed by one state to comnmnicate to another, 
certain propositions quite out of the ordinary and 

[ probable course of public aHairs; and that, in con- 

^ 9 


templation of the doubts which might, in consequence, v^ 
be raised about the genuineness or true meaning of 
the instructions which he was to bear, a sealed docu- 
ment had been sent, preceding his arrival, the con- 
tents of which were not to be opened, until after his ^, 
credentials had been delivered. I need not here 
repeat the passage at length, but shall satisfy myself / 
with recalling it to recollection. 

In the hypothesis then on which the Apostles had 
to reason with the Jews, it will readily appear, that 
the Old Testament held exactly the same place in 
their argument, as a sealed document would do, in 
such a case as I have supposed. It is certain, that 
at the time when Christ was born, the Jews were 
expecting an embassage from God. It is also certain 
that the Old Testament, in the same exact form as 
at present, had been a very long time in their hands ; 
and was regarded by their whole nation, as having 
been written under divine inspiration. Moreover, an 
universal opinion prevailed among them that, directly 
or indirectly, the contents of it referred almost exclu- 
sively to the times and things, which should come to 
pass in the last days ; when there would appear ) 
among them the Messenger of this great Promise 
made unto their fathers, to which, as St. Paul told 
Agrippa, their twelve tribes, instantly serving God 
day and night, had for many ages hoped to come. 

Supi)ose then the truth of the facts which the 
Apostles, as well as many others, had witnessed : — 
That after his death, Christ had really risen from the 



grave, and ascended into heaven, and had continued 
to exhihit ])roofs of a divine power, when his presence 
was no longer apparent to the senses of his disciples: 
— Here, I think, we have proofs enough, time and 
circumstances agreeing, that he was that prophet who 
should come into the world. More clear credentials 
of a divine commission, need not, and could not easily 
be asked. But the message which he communicated 
was unpalatable — highly improbable — surpassing all 
previous expectation or belief. Under these circum- 
stances, the Jews refused to receive Christ, as the 
promised Messenger ; repudiating not only the pro- 
positions of which he was the bearer, but his person ; 
treating both the one and the other, with hatred and 

In this position of things, the Apostles appealed to 
the Old Testament : — to the sealed document. They 
compared the several marks of the promised Messiah 
with the life and history of Christ : his nation — the 
place of his birth — the tribe and family from which he 
was to come — the time of his appearing — the treat- 
ment he experienced — all these they find agreeing. 
The authority with which the Messiah was to be in- 
vested, coincides with the very powers exercised by 
Christ. And looking farther, they see that, sealed up 
under types and figurative prophecies, the very pro- 
positions which Christ had communicated, may plainly 
be deciphered. There, the reason of the unexampled 
sufferings to which he had submitted, was explained ; 
the meaning of numberless allusions, whicli they 


understood not at the time, but then called to their 
recollection, was, in like manner, cleared up ; and 
the true nature of his relation, both to God and to 
mankind, was elucidated. Right or wrong, this was 
the hypothesis on which the Apostles placed the 
argument. Assuming that hypothesis to be true-, 
(which their adversaries did not deny,) the question 
between them and the Jews, was not whether the 
doctrines preached, were abstractedly probable or 
improbable ; but whether they were or were not, 
the doctrines which God intended to reveal, and 
which mankind were expected to believe. 

Time, the only infallible interpreter of prophecy, 
has now decided this question. There were many 
reasons in the days of the Apostles, many more than 
probable arguments, for believing that the prophecies 
were to be interpreted in a spiritual sense ; but before 
that sense had been received and established, it could 
not be infallibly demonstrated. It could not be in- 
fallibly determined by the words of Scripture, nor 
from any principles of general reasoning. The fact 
of Christ having made a propitiation for the sins of 
mankind, could not be proved by arguments drawn 
from the nature of God's moral attributes ; neither 
could it be shewn from natural theology, that the 
promised Saviour must needs be divine. Such rea- 
soning demands caution in the present day ; but those 
with whom the Apostles argued, would have treated 
this proof as absurd. The meaning of the Old Testa- 
ment, or rather the intention of its supposed author, 



was a question which time would ultimately deter- 
mine ; but if we go back in imagination, and place 
ourselves in the position of those, who had nothing 
except the miracles of Christ to reason from, we 
shall easily see, that in the meanwhile, it was neces- 
sarily a matter of opinion and debate. 

On examining the history of the Acts of the Apo- 
stles, and the Epistles of St. Paul, there is no diffi- 
culty in finding what the form was, which the debate 
had then assumed. If the Apostles were right, the 
obliofation of the Mosaic covenant had ceased. It 
had been superseded by a new and more spiritual 
covenant. This it was, which the Apostles endea- 
voured to prove, and which the Jews denied. At 
the time when St. Paul was writing, we may plainly 
see, that the affirmation or denial of this, was almost 
the single question into which all minor controver- 
sies had been resolved. 

In opposition to the facts, which the former alleged 
in confirmation of their assertion, the latter appealed 
also to facts. " You adduce the miracles of Christ," 
said they to the Apostles : " we adduce the miracles 
of Moses. Where is the proof that the object of 
the former, even admitting them to have happened, 
was to release our nation from the future observance 
of the ceremonial law ? It was imposed u])on our 
fathers, on the evidence of signs and wonders, greater 
and more numerous than those which you adduce : 
— By what mark then, are we to know that the 
signs you speak of, were designed by God for the 


purpose of signifying that we, their chikh^en, are 
released from the covenant, by which they were so 
straitly bound? You refer us to the Okl Testa- 
ment : but then you apply to it a principle of inter- 
pretation which we do not recognize, and which, 
from the nature of things, you cannot demonstrate. 
We read of a king who should ascend the throne of 
David — of a dominion which is to extend from one 
end of the earth to the other ; and you say that all 
this is to be understood not in the gross literal sense, 
but in a spiritual way. Such is your persuasion and 
belief; but by what test do you propose to shew that 
you are right ? The question, whether your view of 
God's meaning, or our view, be the true one, is not 
a question of reason, but one, which it is for events 
to determine : — if you appeal to this evidence, where 
does it meet our eyes?" 

Now if we turn to the position of the Apostles, at 
the time to which the history of the New Testament 
extends, I am unable to see in what way these objec- 
tions were to be overcome, on the evidence which 
was then in their hands. If we set aside the facts, 
on which the proof of Christ's miraculous presence 
among his disciples was founded, it was obviously 
not in their power to demonstrate their point. Even 
assuming the truth of what they related, except we 
suppose both jmrties to have believed implicitly in 
the authority of the prophecies, it would have been 
impossible. But admitting both these suppositions, 
they only proved that Christ had been, and con- 

/ , • , - It '' y e ^ / -* 


tinued to be, invested with divine power and autho- 
rity. Neither taken singly nor conjointly did they 
necessarily shew, that the law delivered by Moses 
at Mount Sinai was abolished ; that the Jews were 
no longer God's peculiar people ; that the partition- 
wall between them and the Gentiles had been 
removed ; that the future kingdom which the pro- 
phets had described in such gorgeous colours, was 
the Christian Church ; — an assembly, as then seemed, 
of a few private individuals, of no importance, either 
from their station, or rank, or influence. The won- 
der is, how any persons, who had been bred and 
born Jews, should have been persuaded to embrace 
these propositions, — all of which evidently followed 
from the reasoning of the Apostles, but not at all 
from any visible manifestation of things. 

The Jewish nation, or at least the surviving rem- 
nant of them, deny that proofs to this effect have 
been produced ; and persist, accordingly, in still 
maintaining the obligation of their ancient law. But 
a large proportion of them were persuaded to em- 
brace an opposite conclusion; at all events, we know 
that a large proportion of mankind in general have 
done so. And whatever difference of opinion may 
have existed, at the time when Christianity was yet 
in its infancy, as to what was the true import of the 
Promise made to mankind in the Old Testament, no 
such question, among those who acknowledge its 
divine inspiration, can exist in the present day. As 
1 before observed, this is a controversy to which time 


would seem to have put an end : — but it still re- 
mains for us to explain what the proofs were, what 
the further facts, heretofore not noticed, to which 
we owe the advantage of being able to stand on 
this convincing argument ? The answer to this im- 
portant question will form the subject of the argument 
on which we are now about to enter. 

The knowledge of this part of the Evidences does 
not respect the foundation of our faith, but only the 
causes, by which the success of the Gospel is to be 
accounted for and explained. For this reason, it 
has not attracted the attention of writers upon the 
Evidences. But even the most pious Christian is 
sometimes assailed by difficulties, which, although 
they do not overcome his faith, are often sufficient 
to affi^ct his comfort. " Lord, I believe ; help thou 
mine unbelief," — is a prayer, which others, beside the 
father of the dumb child mentioned in St. Mark, 
have been made to utter. For this reason, whatever 
enlarges and enlightens our knowledge of God's 
dealings with mankind, can never be considered as 
unimportant in the view of faith. The existence of 
a great First Cause may be demonstrated from the 
conformation of a flower or of an insect, as clearly as 
from the motions of the heavenly bodies. Our cer- 
tainty of this great truth is not increased by merely 
repeating the process of demonstration ; but the live- 
liness of the feeling, with which the mind embraces 
it, is greatly enhanced by such a process. 

Before I enter upon an examination of the proofs 


by wliich the Apostles were able to demonstrate, 
that the sense put by them upon the Promise con- 
tained in the Old Testament was the true sense ; 
and to persuade so many thousands of mankind to 
embrace their interpretation, at a time when its 
truth was not, as in the present day, a stated fact, 
but a matter of expectation only : — it will be con- 
venient first to discuss some general points, partly 
in elucidation of the principle on which the argu- 
ment from prophecy depends, as applied to the de- 
monstration of doctrines, — with a view more espe- 
cially to some objections which it may seem open 
to ; but chiefly for the purpose of explaining certain 
Jewish modes of thinking and reasoning, the know- 
ledo-e of which will o-ive us some insisfht into the true 
nature of the causes, to which Christianity owed its 
immediate success, upon any large scale, either among 
the Jews or beyond the boundaries of Judea. 



PROOF OF DOCTRINES : — (continued). 

I HAVE had occasion more than once to remark, that 
however extraordinary we suppose an event to be, 
or however contrary to the usual course of nature, — 
mankind, nevertheless, would have no difficulty, in 
believing- it to have happened, on proper testimony, 
if previous to its coming- to pass an expectation 
of its doing so had generally prevailed. There may 
be some events, whicli it woukl be inipot-sible to 
make mankind expect ; but none, which, having 
been before expected, would be deemed too incre- 
dible to be believed. A person who shoukl expect 
an event before it happened, and refuse to believe 
it afterwards, on the ground that it was incredible, 
would surely convict himself of the plainest incon- 


But, unless I deceive myself, a little reflection 
will show, that this remark is quite as true, mutatis 
mutandis, w^hen applied to the belief of mankind in 
matters of opinion, as in matters oi fact. Be a doc- 
trine proposed, never so unlikely or never so remote 
from the conjectures of abstract reason, — yet we 
have only to borrow the same hypothesis, and sup- 
pose a miraculous declaration of it to have been 
more or less anticipated, in the prevailing opinion of 
a large portion of mankind, and the anticipation 
of the doctrine to be received, will occupy exactly 
the same place in the proof of its divine authority, 
as the previous expectation, in the case of any mira- 
culous event. Certain foreshown marks must be 
pre-supposed, by which it could be identified ; but 
these being assumed, the effect would be the same. 
Call them prejudices, call them popular delusions, if 
you please ; but when a doctrine came to be re- 
vealed, with the expected marks upon it, and fall- 
ing in exactly with established habits of thinking 
among those to whom it was proposed ; — in this case 
men would not argue about its fitness or its pro- 
bability, but only whether it was, or was not, the 
very proposition which they had looked forward to 

Here the previous belief would stand in the place 
of all other arguments. And in the case where we sup- 
pose a revelation to have been actually made, and the 
question to be only as to its contents, such a previous 
belief would universally be considered, and practically 

xil] as applied to the proof of doctri 

would really be, an a-priori evidence of the "liijilith of 
the doctrine ; a proof of its antecedent credibility, 
more demonstrative in the opinion of mankind at 
large, than all the abstract reasonings in the world. 

So true does this seem to me, that after the best 
consideration I am able to give the subject, the bias 
of my mind is to believe, that the remarks which I 
formerly made about the conditions, on which the 
evidence of miracles depends, are still more true, 
in the case of doctrines pretending to inspiration. 
These last, stand in the same relation to our reason, 
as the former, to our experience ; and if mankind 
never could have been brought to believe in the 
divine authority of the facts related in the Gospels, 
without the previous expectation of a revelation 
from God, created by the prophecies of the Old 
Testament ; — it is even still more probable that 
without a similar preparation, in respect of the 
subject-matter of that revelation, they would never 
have been brought to believe in its doctrines. The 
more remote we suppose the doctrines to be, from 
the conclusions which it is within the compass of 
human reason to deduce, the greater, no doubt, would 
be the necessity for such a preparatory dispensation. 
But the hypothesis of a preparatory dispensation of 
some sort, enters into the very theory of a doctrinal 
revelation ; without it, I am quite at a loss to see 
on what kind of evidence, the divine authority of 
such a revelation could be legitimately demonstrated. 
Admitting for the sake of argument, that the nature 


of the truths to be revealed ought to be taken into 
the account, before any sweeping assertion be 
hazarded ; still, as regards the Gospel, I think that 
we should not risk much in affirming, that without 
some antecedent communication of the divine will, 
its establishment, humanly speaking, would have 
been, in the strictest sense of the words, an absolute 

At all events, the general proposition which I am 
here supporting, and which is all that my argument 
requires, will hardly be disputed ; — that if the doc- 
trines which the Apostles preached, fell in with the 
popular persuasion among the Jews, and afforded a 
not inconsistent explanation of the promises, on 
which their expectations had been so long and so 
anxiously suspended, this circumstance must have 
greatly facilitated the reception of Christianity. " The 
law," says St. Paul, " was our schoolmaster, to bring 
us to Christ." These words afford an exact com- 
mentary upon the above general remark. They are 
the simple statement of a fact, which might be 
illustrated from almost every page of the New 
Testament. If any doubt it, he has only to reverse 
the hypothesis, and the truth of them will be imme- 
diately apparent. 

Suppose that Jesus Christ, instead of appearing 
among the people of Judca, had siiddenly opened his 
commission at Rome, or among a people, who wore 
straniiers to the Promises of God; to whom the 
name of a Messiah was unknown ; who had never 



heard such words as Atonement, Salvation, King- '-tt"*'^ 
dom of Heaven, Resurrection, Faith, Sin, Repent- 
ance, and other plirases, the exact meaning of which 
was quite peculiar to the JeM^sfand under which 
those specific ideas were signified, without which the 
truths of the Gospel could hardly have been made 
even intelligible : — in this case, I need not say how 
many impediments the Apostles would, at every 
step, have been obliged to contend with. But if 
from words we come to things ; and suppose that 
when they propounded the high and difficult doc- 
trines it was their business to communicate — the 
Divine Nature of Christ, his Vicarious Sufferings, his 
Intercession at the right hand of God, of Salvation 
through faith in his name — they had been left 
unprovided with any proofs except the miraculous 
facts which they had witnessed, and their own con- 
fident belief, as to the particular truths which those 
facts were designed to attest, — here the difficulty is 
still more apparent. It would seem idle to inquire 
how they could have obtained credit, in such a case ; 
for one does not see how it would have been possible 
that they should have been understood. : Some pre- 
paration of belief, on the part of mankind, was 
necessary : a preceding opinion or expectation of 
some kind was required ; nor can it be doubted that 
the Old Testament^ in the case of Christianity, sup- 
plied this desideratuniT ' It was an evidence whose 
authority was achuitted by those to whom the reve- 


latioii was made, and the meaning of which alone, 
constituted the subject-matter of debate. 

But here, some objections present themselves, 
which before proceeding further, must be considered 
and explained. 

The first, is founded upon a remark which imme- 
diately suggests itself when considering the proper 
nature of j>rophecy; which is, that the subject of 
it must be some matter of fact ; something which is 
to come to pass in time and place. But how are 
general propositions, how are truths and doctrines, 
to be prophesied ? " Qui potest p7'0videri," says Cicero, 
" (flidquam futurum esse, quod neque causam habet 
ulla)?i, neque notam^ cum futurum sitf" Historical 
events may be predicted, and the .truth of the pre- 
diction may be brought to a test. The destruction 
of Babylon, the division of the empire of Alexander 
among his chief captains, might be prophesied ; — 
I the facts would happen, or they would not. But the 
/ trut h_jof a theorem, of one of Euclid's propositions, 
for example, could not be prophesied : this is a 
matter to be demonstrated, — no other test of its 
truth can be applied. 
\ The distinction is very obvious, and is, no doubt, 
/ of importance. In explanation, however, of the 
difficulty which it seems to present, I would observe, 
J that although truths cannot be predicted, yet there 
i are nevertheless two ways in which they may become 
; the subject of a prophetical scheme. 


I. They may be directly foreshewn ; that is, they > ^ 
may be represented to the understanding, under the 
form of types and symbolical actions ; with an intima- 
tion, that the true signification of them shall hereafter, 
at some assigned period and under certain predicted 
circumstances, be clearly revealed. For example, 
when Christ delivered the parable of the Sower to 
his disciples, they did not at first comprehend its 
meaning ; but the moment the key was put into 
their hands, by our Lord's explanation, the import 
of the figure, under which the true sense of the para- 
ble was concealed, immediately became as plain as if 
it had been couched in common language. Now this 
explanation was given by our Saviour in time and 
place. It was an action of his life, which we might 
conceive to have been foretold. I will take another 
illustration, which will make this still clearer. 

Our Saviour told his disciples, that " the kingdom 
of heaven was like unto a net that was cast into 
the sea, and gathered of every kind ; which when 
it was full they drew to the shore, and sat down 
and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad 
away." Now supposing, that with a view to repre- 
sent the mixture of good and bad men, which would 
belong to God's future Church under the Gospel 
dispensation, the high priest had been directed every 
year, to cast a net into the sea of Galilee, as here 
described, — this would have been a type, the meaning 
of which, it would have been impossible to interpret, 
had not our Saviour's words furnished us with a 


key, viz., the Kingdom of Heaven ; and the future 
communication of this key was a point of fact, which 
might have been made the subject of a distinct 

Whenever the Roman consul appeared in any 
assembly of the people, he bowed the fasces : " vocato 
ad concilium populo, summissis fa^cibus in coticionem 
ascendit^'' says Livy. This was strictly a type, signi- 
fying what it might have been made to foreshew, 
supposing the case of a revelation : viz. that the 
supreme authority of the state was vested in the 

In this way, then, it is plain that matters of doc- 
trine may be directly inserted into a prophetical 
scheme ; they may be foreshewn in parabolical allu- 
sions and representative rites, or other actions. 

/ II. Matters of doctrine may be made the subject 
of prophecy in an indirect manner. I mean to say, 

) that although i\\Q truth of a doctrine cannot be pre- 
dicted, yet the belief of mankind in its truth may 
be foretold. This is a matter of fact, which may 
come to pass in time and ]dace, just as any other 
historical fact. Let us put the case : — Suppose a 
revelation to have been promised many years before 
it was disclosed, the doctrines of which had been 
veiled under types and shadows, and scenical allu- 
sions, and the true interpretation professedly kept 
back until a fixed period, when certain other stated 
things should liappen : — tlien, if at the appointed 
time those things did happen ; if that revelation was 


made ; if all mankind changed the religious opinions 
in which they had been born and bred, for certain 
new opinions, exactly in accordance with those types 
and shadows and allusions, — the interpretation of 
which, when put into their hands, had rendered the 
sense of their secret meaning as clear and perspicuous 
as before it had been dark and difficult : — here it 
would seem that we have a case in which, evidently, 
doctrines may become the subject of prophecy, not 
indeed considered as truths, but simply as proposi- 
tions that would come to be believed. In this way, 
the divine authority on which a doctrine had been 
received, might be as certainly known as the divine 
inspiration, by which we were sure that the belief of 
it had been predicted. I shall produce some ex- 
amples from the Old Testament, which, will perhaps 
make my meaning, in this part, more clear, and at 
the same time throw light upon the general argu- 

The divine nature of Christ, in relation to our 
knowledge, is not a fact, but a proposition ; and, as 
such, its truth could not be made the subject of a 
direct prediction. But it is a fact, and not a propo- 
sition, that divine worship is now paid to him, and 
has been from the beginning ; — it may be contrary 
to reason to speak of Christ as if he was a divine 
being, but it is a fact that he is so spoken of; that 
he is and has been called God. 

Let us turn now to the Scriptures. We find in 


Isaiah ' these words : " The people that walked in 
darkness have seen a great light : they that dwell in 
the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath 
the light shined. — For unto us a child is born, unto 
us a son is given ; and the government shall be upon 
his shoulder : and his name shall be called Wonderful, 
Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,^ 
the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his govern- 
ment and peace there shall be no end, upon the 
throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, 
and to establish it, with judgment and with justice, 
from henceforth even for ever." 

Take another passage, from Jeremiah^: " Behold, 
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto 
David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign 
and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice 
in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, 
and Israel shall dwell safely ; and this is his name 
whereby he shall be called. The Lord our Righte- 
ousness." - 1 - 

In the last of these passages, the words in Hebrew 
are, " Jehovah our Righteousness ;" and both this 
passage and that from Isaiah, are distinctly referred 
to Christ in the Targum of Jonathan : there is no 
question, therefore, about the sense in which they 
were understood by the ancient Jewish Church. ^ It 
is no less certainly a fact, that from the days of the 

Ch. ix. 2. G, 7. ' Ch. xxiii. :>, (J. 


Apostles to the present, our Saviour has been 
" called " the Mighty God ; that " the name whereby 
he has been called " has been The Lord our Righte- 
ousness. Here, then, is a case in which a proposition 
may stand upon the evidence of prophecy, and in 
which it actually does so stand. Right or wrong, the 
belief o{ our Lord's divinity formed part of that reve- 
lation which was to be communicated. 

Again, let us open at that passage of Isaiah (ch. "^ v^ 
liii.) in which the death and propitiation of the / 
Messiah are so openly signified. I have before 
observed that the whole of this prophecy is, with , ' 
one voice, referred to the Messiah by the ancient ) 
Jewish writers, both before and after Christ. So 
stringent is the passage itself, and likewise the tradi- / 
tion of their Church, as to its i:)roper interpretation, 
that their later teachers have been constrained to 
invent the doctrine of two Messiahs ; of whom one 
was to appear in a state of poverty and humiliation, 
riding upon an ass, and the other in the clouds of 
heaven, as a king and conqueror. We have consi- 
dered, in a former Lecture, that part of the prophecy 
which relates to the death of the future Messiah. 
But, connected with the prediction of this event, we 
have a revelation of the reason why he was to 
suffer ; and the matter of fact is so bound up with 
this latter revelation, as to make it impossible that 
any person should believe the former to have been 
fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and put 



any other explanation upon his death, except the 
doctrine which the Church has always entertained. 

The Messiah was to be cut off from the land of 
the living; he was to be taken from prison and from 
judgment; he was to be led like a lamb to the 
slaughter. And the cause of this was, the trans- 
gressions of his people ; for their iniquities he was 
to be bruised ; the chastisement of their peace was 
to be upon him, and with his stripes they were to be 
healed. Moreover, he was to bear the sins of many, 
and to make intercession for the transgressors. 
None of these propositions could have been made 
the subject of direct prophecy, except in the shape 
of types, — such as the scape-goat, the sacrifice of 
Isaac, the sprinkling the blood of the sacrifices, or 
''' other similar parabolical actions and allusions. But 
in this passage of Isaiah, the great doctrine of our 
Lord's propitiation is so identified with the prediction 
of his death, as to be indirectly prophesied with as 
clear an evidence, as if the subject of it had been a 
matter of fact. 

We, who see the doctrine of a propitiation for the 
sins of mankind, established as the belief of the 
whole Christian church, may be satisfied, and justly 
so, with the word of Christ and of his Apostles for 
its truth. For the most part. Christians, in the 
present day, seek no better proof But in the days 
of the Apostles, the value of their testimony was the 
C very point in debate. Those who did not question 


their sincerity, would yet have questioned their 
reasoning power, if they had affirmed such a doc- 
trine simply on the authority of their opinion. But 
with this passage of Isaiah in their hands, the death 
of Christ furnished them with a key, by means of 
which the whole mystery of their Law, and of the 
truths which, veiled under the shape of types, occu- 
pied so large a place in it. The suddenness of the 
light which broke in upon the understandings of his 
followers, and its effect upon their feelings, when 
our Saviour, after his resurrection, opened their eyes 
to this part of Scripture, is affectingly described in 
St. Luke. 

" And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with 
them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and 
gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they 
knew him ; and he vanished out of their sight. And 
they said one to another, Did not our heart burn 
within us, while he talked with us by the way, and 
while he opened to us the scriptures ? And they 
rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, 
and found the eleven gathered together, and them 
that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen in- 
deed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told 
what things were done in the way, and how he was 
known of them in breaking of bread. And as they 
thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, 
and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they 
were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they 

R 2 



had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are 
ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your 
hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is 
I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not 
flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he 
had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his 
feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and 
wondered, he said unto them. Have ye here any 
meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled 
fish, and of an honey-comb ? And he took it, and 
did eat before them. And he said unto them, These 
are the words which I spake unto you, while I was 
yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which 
were written in the law of Moses, and in the pro- 
phets, and in' the psalms, concerning me. Then 
opened he their understanding, that they might un- 
derstand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus 
it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, 
and to rise from the dead the third day : and that 
repentance and remission of sins should be preached 
in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusa- 
lem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, 
behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you : 
but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be 
endued with power from on high. And he led them 
out as far as to Bethany : and he lifted up his hands, 
and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he 
blessed them, he w^as parted from them, and carried 
up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and ro- 


turned to Jerusalem with great joy ; and were con- 
tinually in the temple, praising and blessing God. 

Having made these remarks upon the use of pro- 
phecy, as an evidence of revealed truths, and upon 
the place which the doctrines of the Gospel hold in 
the scheme of the Old Testament, I shall now pro- 
ceed to examine a practical objection to this evi- 
dence, in relation to matters of faith, which is too 
important to be passed over without notice. It is 
one which, though it might not shake the soundness 
of the reasoning, by which I have shewn the use 
and importance of prophecy, considered as a pre- 
paration for the belief of any particular doctrine or 
doctrines, may yet be thought to throw some doubt 
upon the safety of employing it, as an engine for 
demonstrating their truth. 

The objection, as applied to Christianity, is this : 
that in thus accounting for the ready reception of 
its doctrines, we introduce an hypothesis which casts 
a suspicion upon their divine authority. 

For thus it may be argued. If the original belief 
of mankind was not founded immediately upon the 
supposed divine inspiration of the Apostles, as at- 
tested by the miracles which they wrought, but 
upon certain preconceived notions, prevailing at 
the time, as well in their own minds, as in the 
minds of those among whom they preached : — by 
what rule can we be sure, that the doctrines of the 
Gospel are any thing more than human opinions. 


founded merely on popular prejudice. This is pre- 
cisely the view which has been put forward by the 
more learned of those who, admitting the divine 
mission of Christ, reject many of the doctrines which 
we find laid down in the Epistles of St. Paul, and 
in other parts of the New Testament. These 
doctrines, say they, formed a part of the popular 
persuasion of the Jews, hefwe the evidence on which 
they are said to depend, was exhibited. The founda- 
tion of them, therefore, they contend, rested originally, 
not upon divine, but on human authority ; or at least 
upon such a mixture of both, as to render it im- 
possible to distinguish between the two. 

This objection is fairly drawn from the preceding 
reasoning, except that it proceeds upon a supposition, 
that the evidence on which the truths of the Gospel 
rest, is to be sought in the facts related in the New 
Testament, and in them alone. Assuming this, the 
difficulty is obvious. We have said that the truths 
of the Gospel, as generally believed, would not have 
met with the favourable hearing which they obtained, 
except they had fallen in with certain popular 
opinions. They may, therefore, so far be said to have 
been founded upon those popular opinions ; inasmuch 
as that if they had been presented to a people who 
had never heard before of a propitiatory sacrifice, — 
of the remission of sin, — of salvation, — of a kingdom 
of heaven, — of a resurrection from the dead, — it is 
probable that no process of reasoning could have 
enabled the Apostles to explain to their hearers the 


meaning of the doctrines which they preached. If 
these antecedent notions had been built merely upon 
popular error and superstition, (and there is no 
medium betMeen this supposition and a divine reve- 
lation,) it is plain that the Mhole diathesis of the 
argument would have been vitiated. No after-evi- 
dence could have given authority to conclusions 
drawn from such premises ; like Nebuchadnezzar's 
image, whose " feet were part of iron and part erf 
clay," it would have fallen to pieces from the mere 
want of cohesion in its parts. 

Let us jDut a case. There is a treatise of Bacon's, 
De Sapientid Vetenwi, in which he endeavours to 
point out the various truths, which were concealed 
under the mythology of the ancients. " Who," says 
he, "'that is told, how Fame was the posthumous 
sister of the giants, does not immediately see that by 
this is signified, the rumours and seditions which 
continue to infest the body politic after the cessation 
of rebellions ? Or, when he reads of the army of 
the giants having been routed by the braying of 
Silenus' ass, does not at once apprehend this as 
intimating how often rebellions are dissipated by the 
mere empty terror of panic fears and reports ? Quis 
tam duriis est," he says, " et ad aperta ccecutiens, as not 
to see these and such like truths under the various 
fables of Greece and Rome ?" 

Suppose then that these or similar truths (the 
revelation of which, as some have thought, was the 
object of the I^leusinian mysteries) had been preached 


by some ancient sect of philosophers, as from God. 
If the same interpretation which they announced 
had always been believed by many thousands, before 
their time, simply on the authority of common belief: 
— In this case, it is plain that no after-evidence, no 
miracles, no conceivable reasoning, could have con- 
stituted them a revelation, or have imparted to 
them a divine authority. If the fables themselves had 
been originally of human invention, no subsequent 
process could have invested them, in the opinion of 
mankind, with the character of inspired truths. 

But this is plainly not the hypothesis on which 
the truths of the Gospel stand. The types and sha- 
dows, and symbolical rites and ceremonies of the 
Jewish law, are assumed, as not being human inven- 
tions, but divine. The popular notions and belief 
which arose out of those institutions, we have su])- 
posed to have been the jjreconcerted effect of a 
divine dispensation. Whether the fact were so or 
not, is a very proper question to discuss; but quite 
a different one from the objection which we are now 
considering. If the notions and ways of thinking 
prevailing among the Jews, was the consequence of 
a miraculous Providence — in that case, instead of 
being reasons for distrusting the truth of the doc- 
trines of the Gospel, they are a part of the evidences 
on which these last repose. Moreover, it is an evi- 
dence which no skill or cunning on the part of 
human agents could have contrived. A person who 
did not believe the facts related by tiiexXjiostlcs, might 


accuse them of having availed themselves of the state 
of public opinion among the Jews, to promote their 
ends ; this may be conceived ; but certainly none but 
God only, could have prepared this particular state 
of mind many generations before. Here the hypo- 
thesis of Christianity, if true at all, is essentially and 
demonstrably divine. 

This objection, however, that the doctrines preached 
by the Apostles were engrafted on a preceding be- 
lief, is not one which could have been urged at 
the time; because it formed the premises of their 
are'ument. That the foundation of this belief had 
been laid by God, and was not of human authority, ^ 
is the single point on which they and their adversa- 
ries were agreed. 

Before Me dismiss the subject, it may be desirable 
to say a few words, respecting the use, which may 
be made of the objections I have been just now 
considering, as affording a probable explanation of 
the reasons for the obscurity of many of the pro- 
phetical parts of the Old Testament. Viewing the 
Jewish dispensation as a preparatory scheme, it is 
plain that the difficulty was to adjust its parts in 
such a way, as to illumine the minds of the Jews, 
with only a partial knowledge of the revelation to 
be communicated. The question was, how little 
light would suffice for the purpose of enabling them 
to recognize the truth, when the time should arrive 
for revealing it more fully, and not liow much God 
was able to communicate. 


If the minds of men were to be prepared for a 
reception of the doctrines of Christianity, it is evi- 
dent that some approximation to the actual truth 
was necessary. There would otherwise have been 
no preparation at all. The mere expectation of a 
revelation of some kind, was not enough in the case 
of doctrines so difficult of apprehension, as those 
which we find in the Gospel. Habits of thinking, 
and trains of ideas were to be created, without 
which, as we have seen, the propositions it con- 
tained would not even have been understood. 

On the other hand, it was also necessary that all 
knowledge of the actual truth should be withheld. 
If the Jews had known this before Christ, the 
Gospel would have been no revelation. The advent 
of Christ, and the miracles which he performed, 
instead of being part of its evidence, would them- 
selves have required to be accounted for and ex- 
plained ; would have embarrassed, rather than have 
assisted the faith of mankind. I had occasion to shew, 

\ in a preceding Lecture, that except the knowledge 
of certain prophecies had been Avithhold, until after 

, their fulfilment, the proof of their divine inspiration 
1 would have been impossible. If we apply the reason- 
ing by which this was evinced, to those parts of the 
Old Testament which relate to the truths that were 
to be*revealed, we shall observe, that there the rule 
will hold universally. No truth which had been 
known and believed beforehand, couhl have been 
made to stand on the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. 


The principle will apply, as we saw, to a large class 
of facts ; but, applied to truths, here it is absolute 
and universal. 

When people, therefore, complain of the obscurity 
of the prophetical parts of the Old Testament — of 
the vagueness of this passage, and the darkness of 
that, and the figurative ambiguity of another — it 
may be suspected that they have not always suffi- 
ciently considered the nature of the case. Taking 
prophecy as a scheme, there are parts of it which 
must unavoidably be wholly or in part obscure. It 
is a condition necessarily attaching to this f)articular 
eyi^ence : a point assumed, and without which, the 
proof of its authority would be impracticable. 

It has been said, speaking of certain rules of 
rhetoric, that there are some, which people in general 
could not have discovered by themselves, which yet 
any man of understanding may comprehend, when 
pointed out to him : " Nam neque tarn eat acris acies 
in naturis hominum et ingeniis, ut res tantas quisquam, 
nisi monstratas, possit videre : neque tanta tamen in 
rebus obscuritas^ ut eas non penitus acri vir ingenio 
cernat si modo adspexeratr This exactly defines the 
true perfection of a typical prophecy, the object of 
which is some proposition, hereafter to be believed. 
Under whatever form the proposition may be fore- 
shown, — whether of some s)Tnbolical action, or of a ") 
parable, or of figurative representation of any kind 
— it should be such as no man could have divined 
beforehand, but which he immediately apprehends, 


as soon as its real meaning is suggested to his mind. 
This end is only to be obtained by the aid of types 
of some sort, and in some shape or other; and this 
is the use to which they are always appropriated in 
the Old Testament. One and the self-same key was 
to open the meaning, not of one prophecy, but of 
many ; not of one doctrine, nor one passage of God's 
dealings with mankind, but of many doctrines and 
many passages ; and the wonder, as it seems to me, 
is not, that there should be so much obscurity in the 
Old Testament, but that, under such circumstances, 
there should not be found still more. 

If we consider how multiplied are the disputes, 
which have been raised about the true contents of 
revelation, even as explained to us in the New Tes- 
tament — we shall easily see, how unreasonable it must 
be to complain, that the prophecies of the Old Testa- 
ment, and especially the part of them now under our 
eye, are not free from obscurity ; or that the true sense 
and intention of the author is not to be obtained, 
from a mere granmiatical examination of the language. 
This rule is utterly worthless in the interpretation of 
most of the jjrophecies. The true and perfect test, 
as I before explained, of the divine inspiration, is 
the sense affixed before the time of its fulfilment. 
If a prophecy relates to a matter of fact, the pre- 
vious expectation determines its meaning. If the 
event corresponded in time and place with the ])re- 
vious ex|»cctation, here we have a rule of interpreta- 
tion which admits of no mistake. Hut this rule, as 


we have seen, cannot be applied to the revelation 
of truths and dactrines. They do not come to pass, 
as facts do ; — and as to a previous knowledge of the 
propositions to be communicated, that would hinder, 
if not altogether defeat, the ends of prophecy. The ^^. 
nearest approach then which we can make to any de- ^^ 
terminate rule of interpretation, in application to that 
part of the Old Testament, which relates to the sub- 
ject-matter of the Promise, and not to the evidence 
of its fulfilment, is this : — did the Jews know before- / 
hand, that under the institutions of the Law, and in 1 
the Psalms, and in many leading events of their 
history, certain truths, afterwards to be revealed, 
were concealed ? 

If this can be shewn to have been the case ; and 
if it shall appear that those very truths which had 
beforehand been darkly gu'essed and faintly appre- 
hended in a low and earthly sense, became the very 
doctrines which, in a high and spiritual sense, were 
afterwards embraced by all mankind, — it seems to me, 
that the divine authority of those doctrines will rest 
upon an evidence as solid, as the reason of the most 
jealous inquirer, or even the most sceptical ingenuity, 
can require. 

How far the doctrines of the Gospel are able to 
claim an evidence such as this, will be the next 
subject for us to consider. 




hr^ the end of Joh. Buxtorf s Synagoga Jiidaica, is 

a chapter entitled " De Ventiiro Judaiorum Messid" 

in which he gives a detailed account of the expected 

( blessings which the Jews look forward to enjoy, 

I when their promised Messiah shall appear. The dis- 

■ sertation is fiill of curious matter, containing chapter 

! and verse for every statement, and well worth the 

^ trouble of reading. As it is of moderate length, I 

shall not content myself with merely referring to it, 

but endeavour to compress its contents into an 

abridged form ; with a view to some short remarks 

in illustration of the reasoning embodied in my last 

three or four Lectures, upon the belief of the Jewish 

Church, and upon the state of the argument for the 

truth of Christianity, at the mom»^iit when it wa.* 



first planted in the world ; — before it had begun to 
make a noticeable appearance in the eyes of men, — 
while the belief in it was only a seed just beginning 
to spring up — and when its origin, its character, its 
fiiture destiny, and every point connected with it, 
must have been a matter of speculation even in the 
minds of the Apostles themselves. 

Although the authorities produced by Buxtorf are 
taken from the Talmud, the compilation of which 
was posterior to the time of Christ, yet there is not 
the least reason for supposing, that any material 
change has taken place in the theological belief of 
the Jews, since that period. The success of Chris- n^ 
tianity, and the evident clearness with which it may 
be shewn, that all the terms fixed in Scripture, for 
limiting the time of the Messiah's coming, are now 
passed by, has forced their learned men upon the 
necessity of adopting one or two opinions, probably / 
unknown to their ancient church ; — as it has com- \ ^'^(cy 
pelled them to change their interj)retations of some 
passages of Scripture, which before the time of 
Christ were understood in the sense which was put 
upon them by the Apostles ; — but these innovations , 
are easily distinguished, and do not in the least affect \ 
the substance of their doctrine. 

Among them may be mentioned an assertion to 
which I have before adverted, that there were to be 
two Messiahs; — one whom they call the son of Joseph, 
who was to be a suffering Messiah, and mIio, they 
say, has appeared ; and another, the Son of David, 


whose coming is the great object of their faith, and 
under whom all the glorious promises, which the 
Scriptures make to their nation, are to receive their 
accomplishment. Now the present hopes of the 
Jews, in regard to this, their triumphant IVIessiah, 
are beyond any doubt substantially the same, in most 
I points, as have been entertained by them, from a 
( period certainly anterior to Christianity. His coming, 
say they, has been delayed on account of their im- 
penitence ; but it has been delayed only ; the pro- 
mise still remains uncancelled ; and among the 
petitions which are put up daily by them in their 
synagogues, one always is, that it may be shortly, 
and in their days, fulfilled. 

Before describing the several particulars in which 

C the happiness of the Jews, under the kingdom of 
' their Messiah, is to consist ; it may be proper to 
notice the portents which are to precede, and to be 
the signs of its approach, 

/ The first is, tiiat there is to be no school of the 
Rabbins, no chief of the Synagogue, — no faithful 
teachers of the word, — no good or holy men ; the 
heavens are to be shut up, and there is to be no food 
for man or beast. This they deduce from Hosea', 
where it is said, " For the children of Israel shall 
abide many days without a king, and without a prince, 
and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and 
M'ithout an ephod, and without teraphim." 

' Cli. iii. 1. 


The second sign is, that the sun is no longer to 
give its heat ; and that all kinds of pestilential dis- 
eases are to arise, and thin the nations of the world. 
This is inferred from Malachi ' : " For, behohl, the 
day Cometh, that shall burn as an oven," &c. 

The third sign will consist of various prodigies in 
heaven and earth, according to JoeP: " And I will 
shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, 
blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke." The other 
signs are of the same kind, and all severally deduced 
from express passages of Scripture ; as, that the sun 
is not to give light for thirty days, — that a conqueror 
is to arise, who, for nine months, shall oppress all 
the nations of the earth with his tyranny and exac- 
tions, — that there shall be at Rome a marble statue, 
representing a beautiful virgin, before which the 
wicked from all quarters shall fall down and be 
seized with the most violent love, — that this statue 
will be the mother of an infant to be called Ar- 
millus, who shall pretend to be the Messiah ; and 
under whom, the Jewish nation are to be driven 
from their own land, and to bo loaded with every 
sort of misery and oppression. That after this the 
Archangel Michael is to come with a great trum- 
pet, according to Zechariah% and, blowing to the 
four winds, the true Messiah and the prophet Elias 
will appear, and manifest themselves to certain 
pious Jews, living in the wilderness of Judea : — that 

' Ch. iv. I. ' Ch. ii. SO. ' Ch. ix. 14. 



then the trumpet will sound a second time, and 
immediately all the graves that are in Jerusalem 
will be opened, and the dead will rise ; and all 
the Jews dispersed throughout the world, be brought 
in chariots and on the shoulders of the nations, 
to Judea. As the tenth and last sign, the trumpet 
is to sound a third time, as a signal to all the 
Jews, who shall be living upon the banks of the 
rivers Gosan, Lachor, and Chabor. 

I have greatly abridged this part of Buxtorfs 
dissertation ; and perhaps it might have been passed 
over without notice, because it is evident that the 
greater part of these signs are the inventions of an 
age, posterior to that of Christ. There are traces in 
the New Testament of an expectation on the part 
of the Jews, of signs of some sort to be exhibited to 
mankind, by which the Messiah's approach would be 
made known ; but the kind to which they were 
looking forward, were probably merely prodigies ; 
not such portentous dispensations as the Talmudists, 
reasoning partly from the triumph of the Gospel 
in the world, and partly from the condition to which 
their nation has been reduced, have since been led 
to enumerate. 

With respect, however, to the several Blessings 
which we find mentioned in the Talmud, as compos- 
ing the future condition of the Jews, under their 
promised king, — there is proof, that they were sub- 
stantially the same before the coming of Christ, as 
at the present time. It is chiefly in that part of 


their belief, which refers to the vengeance which 
God will take upon the enemies of his people, that 
the Talmudical doctors have introduced inventions 
of their own, and given the rein to their imagi- 

First, they are persuaded that the Messiah, when 
he comes, will gather together from every quarter 
of the heavens, all the dispersed of their nation in 
every quarter of the world, as it is written in Jere- 
miah ' : " Behold, I will bring them from the north 
country, and gather them from the coasts of the 
earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the 
woman with child and her that travaileth with child 
together: a great company shall return thither.' 
From these words they infer, if any, while alive, were 
deaf, or lame, or blind, that when the Messiah shall 
restore them to life, (as he will do all the children 
of Abraham, throughout the world, and conduct 
them to their own land,) all their infirmities will be 
healed ; for then, as Isaiah writes ^ " the eyes of 
the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf 
shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap 
as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing." 
The general doctrine of a resurrection to life they 
build upon Daniel ^ : " And many of them that sleep 
in the dust of the earth shall awake." 

In that day, likewise, there shall be none sick, but 
God will remove all plagues and all diseases from 

' Ch. xxxi. 8. ' Ch. xxxv. 5, G. ' Ch. xii. 2. 

a "2 


among his people. Moreover their days will be pro- 
lonofed to the asfe of those who lived before the flood. 
" For as the days of a tree are the days of my 
peopled" God will also not only remove all diseases, 
but all evil concupiscence and inclinations to evil. 
" A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit 
will I put within you ; and I will take away the 
stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an 
heart of flesh^" But lastly, and above all, God in 
that day will so reveal himself to the children of his 
chosen race, as that they shall see him face to face. 
" And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and 
all flesh shall see it together \" 

I omit the long account given by Buxtorf of the 
feast, which the Messiah is to give to all the 
assembled Jews. It has probably a foundation in 
some ancient tradition, connected with the texts of 
Scripture which he quotes, as the authority they pro- 
duce ; but it is so absurd, both in itself and in its 
details, and is so plainly marked with the extravagant 
imagination, which disfigures the more recent inven- 
tions of the Jewish Synagogue, that I shall pass it 
over as irrelevant to the present argument, — which is 
only concerned with the opinion of their Church, at 
the period when the writings of the New Testament 
were composed. Of the antiquity of all the other 
particulars embodied in the expectation of the Jews, 
proof may be produced from other sources besides 

' Isaiah Ixv. 22. ' Ezek. xxxvi. 26. ' Isaiah xl. 5. 


those which Buxtorf adduces. But indeed no better 
evidence is required than the texts of Scripture, on 
which each several promise is alleged. These, we 
may have observed, are the self-same texts, as are 
commonly produced by the Apostles, in reference to 
their interpretation of God's promises: — a coincidence 
which is easily explained, by supposing that the 
reasoning of both was built, as beyond any doubt it 
was, upon one and the same foundation. 

That many, perhaps the majority of the religious 
portion of the Jewish nation, expected the above 
promises to be fulfilled in a literal sense, need not 
be doubted. Nevertheless it is not conceivable, but 
that there must have been very numerous exceptions. 
Indeed we know this to have been the case, upon the 
autliority of the Evangelists. They tell us of a whole 
class of Jews, \yho expressly denied that there 
would be any resurrection of the dead when the 
Messiah came. Many, we must suppose, would reject 
other parts of the popular belief; and some would 
regard the whole, as containing only a figurative 
description of that " world to come," that a'lwv fxeXXuiv, 
which was then, as it has ever been among the Jews, 
the great subject of religious faith ; indeed the only 
article o? faith, properly so called, which their creed 

Be this, however, as it may — whatever was the state 
of the public mind in Judea, at the time when Christ 
appeared — yet as preached among a }>eople accus- 
tomed to believe, or to listen to others who believed, 





in the future revelation of such a state of things, as 
has been just now described, surely the interpreta- 
tion of God's promises, which was proposed by the 
Apostles, was any thing but incredible. If it seemed 
startling, it must have been so, only from its novelty; 
ft'om its sobriety rather than its extravagance. 
Putting aside altogether the proofs adduced of the 
truth of this interpretation, as arising out of the 
great and wonderful events, of which so many had 
been witnesses ; and leaving the question to be 
determined only by reason and probability, — the 
Christian doctrine, as to the true nature of the 

y Messiah's kingdom, was plainly the less unlikely 
of the two ; less directly subversive of all that we 

) should deduce by experience, or conjecture from 
reason, of the thoughts and ways of God. Disap- 
pointing, in the highest degree, the doctrine preached 
by the Apostles must have been, to a people whose 
minds had been filled with the imaginations of the 
) Rabbins ; but not exceeding belief, merely on 
account of its opposition to their natural appre- 

Neither were those among whom the Gospel was 
first preached, at liberty to reject its doctrine, as 
being founded upon a new and unauthorized prin- 

) ciple of interpretation. For the principle on which 
it proceeded was one, which is now, and always 
has been recognized among the Jews. It would 
be easy to show this, by citing instances where their 

' writers explain the meaning of the several parts 


of their Law, as typifying particular truths; and 
examples in abundance are produced by Schoettgen 
in his dissertation De Ilicrosolyma Ccelesti '. 

The source from which this part of Jewish theo- 
logy took its rise, is in the Old Testament. When 
Moses was taken up into the Mount^ the Jews 
believe that God then showed him^ the "patterns" 
from which the form of the ark, and all the various 
things with which it was to be furnished, were 
to be severally copied. This is alluded to in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews \ where St. Paul speaks of 
the law, as having only " the shadow of good things 
to come, and not the very image of the things." It 
was a well known tradition of the Jews, and the 
Apostle plainly assumes it, as a thing admitted and 
understood. The same allusion occurs in other places, 
where the writers of the New Testament speak of 
the " Jerusalem which is above ;" the " heavenly 
Jerusalem ;" — the " Jerusalem which is the mother 
of us all ;" the " Jerusalem which now is," the " New 
Jerusalem ;" — showing, by the way in which they use 
the words, that they were not proposing any new 
doctrine, but speaking of one which was familiarly 

What I have just said will not only prove that 
the Jews, at the time when Christ came, were accus- 
tomed to the principle of interpretation asserted 

• Vol. i. p. 1205. ^ Exod. xxiv. ' Exod. xxvi. 30. 
*Ch. ix. 23 ; x. 1. 


by the Apostles, but will also explain what it was, 
which they understood by it. We are not, however, 
to suppose, that this principle was received only by 
individuals, or confined to the things, which related 
to the Temple. It was sanctioned by the whole 
body of their learned men, and adopted by them as 
the foundation of an entire system. Whether it 
should be called a theological or philosophical sys- 
tem, it may be difficult to say. Such as it is, 
however, it is not without merit as an ingenious 
hypothesis, though known by a name which has 
become a proverb of reproach among all other philo- 
sophers and theologians. The science I am speaking 
of, is the famous Cabbala of the Jews. I am not 
concerned with the conclusions of this science, about 
which I know little or nothing, but only with the 
principle, on which the science, whether wise or 
foolish, is built. 

" When God created this lower world," says R. 
Simeon Ben Jochai (quoted by Schoettgen from the 
Zohur Exod. fol. 88. col. 360) " he created it accord- 
ing to the pattern of the world above, in order that 
this world might be the image of the world above ; 
and his reason for so doing was, that the one world 
might be connected with the other." Assuming this 
as a fact, the more learned of the Jews have divided 
all human knowledge into two principal parts ; of 
which the one is embodied in tlieir Talmud, where 
men may learn the ]>ractical parts of divine truth ; 
but for the truth itself, they must consult their 


cabbalistical writers, by whom the original principles 
of all things are explained. 

As I am now upon a subject in which it is easy 
to proceed beyond one's depth, I shall avail myself 
of the account given us by Reuchlin, of this part of 
the Jewish theology, in his treatise De Arte Cabha- ] ^ f-^ 
listicd^ published by Galatinus, at the end of his 
work De Arcanis, printed 1561. We may find the 
same account in other writers who have treated of 
the subject ; but Reuchlin drew his knowledge from 
the fountain-head, which few, except himself, would 
seem to have thought necessary. " Qicidquid," he 
says, " de Saci'd Scripturd homines optimarum ar- 
tium amatores, scientid naturali addiscmit, auro bono 
par est et appellatur Opus de Bresith. Quod vero 
scientid spirituali recipimus. Opus de Merchava 
dicitur, et auro cequatur optimo et purissimo. Scribunt 
enim CabbalistcB, quod Opus de Bresith est sapientia 
naturce ; Opus de Merchava est sapientia divini- 
tatis. Et quoniam utraque scientia utcunque circa 
mundum et ea quce consistunt in mundo, versatur ; 
estque Talmudistarwn et Cabbalistarmn^ ca in re, un- 
animis arbitratus, quod duo sunt mundi : primus, intel- 
lectualis, qui vocatur K2n D7l3^> ^d est, mundum ille 
futurus quoad nos ; et secundum, setisibilis, qui dicitur 
ntn D7iy, id est, inundus iste prcesens, ut ex verbis 
sapientum nostrorum recepimus . . . Idcirco dividuntur 
Talmudici et Cabbalistcb, secedentes in duas facidtates, 
tametsi ea.' ci'editis receptionibus ambce similiter oriantur 
et emanent. Nam utrique majwum suorum traditionibus 

266 JEWISH OPINIONS respecting [lect. 

fidem habent, nulla ratioiie redditd. Sed hac distin- 
guuntur disputationis oi'dinatione, quod omne studiuniy 
omnem operam nniversamquc mentis suce inte)itio?ie?n, 
Cabbalista a mundo sensibilLfinaliter ad miuidum intel- 
lectuahmy transfert et traducit. Talmudista, aidem^ 
( in mundo sensibili permanet, ac animum universi hujus 
mundi nan transcendit ; quod si quando licente)" ad 
Deum et beatos spiritus pergat, non tamen Deum ipsum 
ut immanentem et absolutum accedit, sed id opijicem 

causamque rerum et circa sua creata ocaipatum 

Igitur alticn^e loco et digniore gradu habendi sunt 

CabbalistcB " 

v^ ; The above passages are put by Reuchlin into the 
mouth of R. Simeon, the disciple of R. Akibah, who 
lived in the beginning of the second century. The 
/ immediate disciples of the former are suj)posed to 

^ have compiled the Zohar, before quoted, about the 

year 170. It is to this book, that we owe much of 
the knowledge which we possess, concerning the 
opinions of the ancient Jewish Church, on a variety 
of interesting points. But with respect to the parti- 
' cular point, which it is my present object to prove, 
we have an older and still more unquestionably 
authentic authority, in the testimony of Philo, who 
was the contemporary of the Apostles. A large 
l)ortion of his voluminous writings is entirely de- 
voted to an exposition of the principle, just now 
stated ; namely, that all the things, and even persons 
and facts, which are described in the Old Testament, 
are merely avfx^oka tmv vo»)twi;, as he expresses it ; 


the shadow of " the things unseen," representing, to 
our senses, truths that really exist only in the under- 

It would be an endless task to shew this by an 
accumulation of passages from his writings ; but I am 
tempted to produce one extract, as proving that the 
supposition of a spiritual meaning being couched 
under the literal sense of Scripture, was a received 
notion anions: the Jews : one so common as to have 
been abused in the hands of the vulgar, and on that 
account, calling down the censure of the wiser sort 
among them. 

It seems that the practice of spiritualizing the v/ \y 
Scriptures, had extended itself so far in his age, as 
to have led many to disregard the literal meaning 
altogether, and to neglect in consequence the prac- 
tice of the law. This scandal Philo sharply censures ; 
and his reproof is characteristic enough of the little 
reverence, which Philo himself entertained for the 
precepts themselves, the outward observance of 
which, he so strongly recommends. " Although," 
says he, " all mankind were to agree to call a sick 
man whole, or a whole man sick, their opinion would 
not alter the real state of the man. Yet people are 
not on that account to despise the good opinion of 
mankind, which deserves regard, as a thing very 
useful in this life ; and which good opinion always 
attends those who, contented with things as they 
are, follow the customs and institutions of their 
fathers. There are some, who, believing that the 


written law contains only figures of intelligible truths, 
study these last very carefully, but altogether neglect 
the written laws themselves. Now this," he argues, 
" might be very Avell, if men were intended to live in 
solitude ; if they were not members of society ; very 
well for men who were ignorant of houses and lands 
and the other conveniences of life, to follow truth, 
naked as she is in herself; but we must not forget, 
that the sacred Scriptures teach us, not to neglect 
the opinion of the world, and not to violate laws, 
which divine men, and better than we, have sanc- 
tioned." He then goes on to instance particulars. 
" The Sabbath," says he, " the feasts of the nation, the 
ceremonies of the holy temple, all these things will 
be neglected, if we attend only to the things signi- 
fied bv such ceremonies, and not to the things them- 
selves. On the contrary, our duty is to regard the 
written law as the body ; the other, that is, ra St' 
vTTovoiCov S»)Xovjit£va, as the soul ; and to value the 
former accordingly, as being the house in which the 
latter resides. In this way," he 'ells us, " we shall 
more clearly understand the symbolical meaning, and 
at the same time escape much blame and ill-will." 
I have given only the substance of the passage, for 
the sake of brevity; but it may be found in the 
Treatise irepl 'ATrotfciac, at p. 450, Vol. II. Ed. 

Though Philo was a Jew by nation, yet his Mrit- 
ings savour very strongly of the Academy, and very 
slightly of the Synagogue. His own belief, evidently 


is altogether that of a professed philosopher ; and 
there is good reason to doubt whether he considered 
Moses himself, as being much more. I do not re- 
member that an allusion to the promise of a Messiah 
is to be found in any of his writings. He is called by 
Clemens of Alexandria, Philo the Pythagoraian ; but 
what the object of his writings was, — whether to 
philosophize Judaism, or to judaize philosophy, — it 
may be difficult to determine. He seldom refers to 
the prophecies, and when he does, he speaks of the 
writers, not in the language one might expect from a 
Jew, — as of men inspired with a knowledge of events 

to come, but as rig twv traipcov Mwuatwc, or Ttg tov 

Trpo^TjTtfcou OiaffWTTjc xojoov. So also when he attempts 
to illustrate the meaning of Moses, by explaining the 
hidden signification of the outward rites and in- 
stitutions of the Law, — it is to moral and philo- 
sophical truths, that he refers ; and not to such truths 
as Reuchlin speaks of, as forming the subject of the 

But we find no traces of Philo's opinions, or of 
that class of persons, to whom he refers in the 
extract just quoted, (so far at least as my own know- 
ledge extends,) in any part of the ancient theo- 
logy of the Jews. The modern school of Jewish 
theology has Maimonides for its author, who lived 
in the twelfth century. He has attempted to ex- 
plain the more obscure parts of Scripture, by sup- 
posing such reasons as he could find for the different 
institutions of the Law ; and his authority has been 


quoted with more respect than it really deserves. 
As an exposition of Jewish theology, properly so 
y called, it is worse than useless, as being founded 
^ '^^ upon principles, not drawn from any sources of tra- 
dition, but from Aristotle, or other authorities whom 
Hillel or Gamaliel, or the compilers of the Zohar 
or Mischna, would have repudiated with scorn. 
But there are no traces of any such philosophical 
spirit, in the writings which have come down to 
us from the ancient Jewish Church. The truths 
to which our attention is directed in the Zohar, and 
which are assumed to be concealed under the re- 
presentation of visible actions, and sensible images, 
refer entirely to the revelations, which it was sup- 
posed would be openly made, in the times of the 

When the Talmudists spoke of the " heavenly 
Jerusalem," or of the "kingdom of heaven," or of 
"the world to come," — they signified a state of things 
to be established on earth : they understood these 
words to express a temporal state. When the same 
words occur in the writings of St. Paul, or the 
Apostles, we are to understand by them a state of 
things, which has already commenced under Christ's 
Church ; but the consummation of which, will be 
hereafter, at his second coming to judge the world. 
As the elucidation of this point is not imj)ortant to 
the argument, it may be sufficient to refer the j>roof 
to Schoettgen, vol. 1. Dissert, v. De Hierosolyma 
Coelesti, c. vi. and Witsius. Exereit. v. De Monte 


Agar, §. 17, 18. and Exercit. v. Historia Hierosolymm, 
§. 29. All that I am at present concerned to shew 
is, that in putting a spiritual sense upon the pro- 
phecies, the Apostles were not introducing any new 
maxims of interpretation ; but were proceeding upon 
a principle, known familiarly to all the Jews ; one 
fully recognized by the learned, — even by those among 
them who, like Philo, seem to have considered their 
Scriptures, not in the light of prophecies concern- 
ing things to come, but simply as monuments of 
a wisdom almost more than human ; and under 
which certain divine truths were couched, not ap- 
parent to the apprehension of the vulgar. I am 
not examining, whether in adopting such a me- 
thod of arriving at the true meaning of Scripture, 
the Apostles were right or wrong. I am only ad- 
verting to a fact, and saying that, whether reasonable 
or not, the principle itself was a recognized princi- 
ple, to which individuals might not assent, but to 
which the Jews, as a body, were not at liberty to 

It may seem strange, at first sight, that a mode 
of reasoning apparently so uncertain, on any sup- 
position, and so totally inadmissible under ordinary 
circumstances, should yet, in the case of the Old 
Testament, have obtained, as we have seen, an al- 
most unanimous consent. But we are not to judge 
the Old Testament, on the principles of philosophical 
criticism, as we should a work by Plato, or Cicero. 
It does not profess to be a treatise upon religion or 


morality, but to be tlic depository of a eommunica- 
tion from God to man ; the means by which, in the 
process of ages, mankind were to be brought to the 
knowledge and belief of things, deeply concerning 
their happiness, and such as they could never learn 
except by revelation. This is not the sort of end 
which is proposed in other books ; and, therefore, this 
book is not to be subjected to the same rules of 

The end for which the Old Testament was written, 
made it necessary, not only that its true meaning 
should be concealed, but that the Jews should know it 
to be so ; and be accustomed to regard their Scrip- 
tures not as men regard other books, but as a sort 
of mine, in which their learned men were to dig, night 
and day, for the treasures of hidden wisdom which 
they contained. It is easy to see how comparatively 
useless the Old Testament would have been to the 
Apostles, when reasoning with the Jews, concerning 
the_spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, if the latter 
had never before heard of any except the strict 
literal interpretation. St. Paul's arguments, in such 
a case, would not have obtained a moment's atten- 
tion, even from the lowest of the people. On the 
other hand, the many advantages which were derived 
from the prevalent habits of thinking among the 
Jews, as just now explained, and from the ]>elief 
that all tlie })arts of their temple service, and much 
of their history, and large portions of the writings of 
the prophets, wore, as Philo expresses it, the mere 


<Tv^/3oXa tHjv vor]Twv, and not the very things them- 
selves, which were in the word of God, — narrowed 
the controversies between the Apostles and their 
adversaries, and brought it at once to an intelligible 
issue. The supposition of a hidden fneahing being 
once admitted, the question, whether the truths 
preached by the former, were the very truths which 
God, according to the Jewish notion, had shown to 
Moses on the mount, was evidently one which only 
God could decide. It was not a matter of opinion, 
but turned upon the determination of a fact, the 
proof of which rested with the Apostles. They were 
not to allege God's decision, in a general way, but 
to demonstrate it, by some overt act of the divine 

All this presupposed certain antecedent conclu- 
sions ; and among the rest it presupposed an ac- 
knowledgment by the Jews, that their Scriptures 
were not to be interpreted, like any other book, 
and that the true sense of them, was a secret sense. 
We have seen, in the preceding Lecture, how im- 
portant it was, that their knowledge of this fact 
should at the same time be carefully limited ; so 
that the full meaning of their law might be kept 
back from their minds, until the time had arrived, 
when the great events on which the evidence of 
its revelation would depend, should be brought to 
pass. But how were these dissimilar and jarring 
ends to be obtained ? We see what it was which 
the case required. It was some contrivance, by 


which the true sense of the prophecies, (that " sealed 
document," to which I have more than once com- 
pared them,) was to be veiled from the sight of the 
Jews ; but which, at the same time, involved another 
process, by means of which its general import, and 
various circumstantial particulars relating to it, should 
be disclosed. 

We have before examined the first of these pro- 
cesses, when explaining the reasons on which the 
use of types was founded. And if we desire to un- 
derstand the process by which a knowledge of the 
typical character of the Old Testament was made so 
evident to the Jews ; and the causes of their implicit 
belief in the reality of the truths which it concealed, 
— we have only to remember the estimation in which 
the Jews held their Scripture, and reflect for a mo- 
ment upon its contents. A moment's thought will 
show, that the doctrine of a concealed sense, was a 
necessary conclusion in their minds ; it was scarcely 
possible for them to have regarded it as the inspired 
word of God, without, at the same time, attributing 
to it a meaning, beyond what was conveyed by the 
literal interpretation. 

It is said in Ezekiel, that God had given the 
Jews " statutes which were not good, and judg- 
ments whereby they should not live ;" that is, — as the 
Jews define the words " statutes" and "judgments," 
— had given them precepts, for some of which no 
reason whatever was assigned, and others, of which 
the reasons were given, but which possess no moral 


excellence. It has been said, that the number of such 
precepts, which are found in the Old Testament, 
having been the cause of many Jews, in the twelfth 
century, falling away, some to Christianity, and others 
to Mahommedism, occasioned Maimonides to write 
his Mm^e NevocJdm ; in which he endeavours to find 
the reasons, on which every precept of the Law was 
severally grounded. But if I am not mistaken, we 
may find a much more satisfactory solution of those 
precepts than any which he produces, in the very 
absence of those reasons which Maimonides endea- 
vours to find ; for the impossibility of explaining 
many parts of the Old Testament, was the very 
means, by which the knowledge and belief of its 
typical character was obtained, and by which it 
has always been kept alive in the minds of his 

Human compositions may be without any mean- 
ing, as human actions or human laws may be with- 
out reason, or, at least, any adequate reason. But 
such a way of judging is not allowable in a case 
where we suppose a divine author. Whatever act 
or sentiment we attribute to God, must be supposed 
to have had, not only some reason, but some suffi- 
cient reason. And this every one does suppose 
when he is considering the works of God's visible 
creation. We cannot see the use of poisonous 
reptiles, of earthquakes, of so much sin and misery 
as fills the world; nevertheless we believe that a 
suflficient reason exists for all these things, though it 

T 2 


be concealed from our understanding. Just so it 
was that the Jews reasoned. 

To whatever part of the Old Testament we tuni 
our attention, we are continually met by passages, 
in which we are compelled to suj^pose a meaning 
beyond what the text, when literally explained, will 
supply. In the historical parts, for example, how 
many transactions are there, such as the Sacrifice of 
Isaac, the Confusion of tongues, the Tree of Know- 
ledge of good and evil, which it is equally difficult to 
believe, or to refer to God's commands, without 
assuming reasons of some sort, whereof no hint 
is given to us in the Old Testament itself. If 
we turn to the Levitical law, the same conclusion 
is still more strongly forced upon our minds ; and 
even in the prophecies, we at once perceive, that the 
world in which we live remaining what it is, the 
literal fulfilment of those passages which refer to the 
Messiah's kingdom would be impossible. Under 
these circumstances, the doctrine of types, that is, of 
a spiritual or symbolical interpretation, necessarily 
became, and always has continued, a jiart of the 
Jewish theology ; and it arose out of the })eculiar 
kind of difficulties witli wliicli their Scriptures 

T trust that the importance of the subjects dis- 
cussed in the present and i)receding Lectures will be 
considered as a sufficient excuse for tlie interruj)tion 
which they have caused to the general argument. 
This we shall now resume. The ])oint at which we 


stopped was, — the antecedent proofs by which the 
belief of the leading doctrines of the Gospel were 
originally supported. I observed that these proofs 
did not necessarily appear to involve the abolition of 
the Mosaic Law; nor afford any direct evidence to 
show, that the future kingdom which the prophets had 
described in such sublime language, was the Christian 
Church ; — a society, which, instead of exhibiting any 
outward and visible signs of that spiritual power and 
dominion which it soon afterwards obtained, was, in 
the time of the Apostles, maintaining a painful 
struggle for existence. It remains to consider the 
evidence by which the unequal struggle was sustained, 
and finally conducted to a successful issue, in the 
triumphant establishment of the authority of Christ 
over the minds and consciences of mankind. 



In the preceding remarks, I have had in view to 
explain the state of the question as between the 
Apostles and the Jews, at the period when the 
preaching of the Gospel was confined to Jerusalem 
and Judea. Our attention has been directed, not 
only to the proofs with which the Gospel was at that 
time provided, but also to the position in which the 
Apostles stood, in reference to the peculiar opinions 
and habits of thinking, in which both they and the 
people among whom they i)reachcd, had been edu- 

But, to recur to a remark which I have more than 
once had occasion to make, a very sliglit inspection 
of the Old Testament will show, that the great and 
leading subject of the prophecies, was not the person 


of the Messiah, — was not his sufferings or actions 
on earth, but the Kingdom which he was to establish. 
This was the burtlien, in one shape or another, of 
almost all the predictions relating to that New 
Covenant of which Christ was to be the messenger; 
and may be said to constitute the Promise, on which 
the hopes of the Jewish people had so long been 

Beyond all doubt, such was the view which the 
Jews had been accustomed to take of the question. 
When their minds adverted to the fulfilment of 
the Scriptures, it was on the fancied glories and 
felicities of that more than golden age, that their 
thoughts were wont to fix. We have seen in the 
preceding Lecture the particular blessings which 
they had been looking forward to, under that " new 
heaven and new earth" that was to be revealed. 
And it must be allowed, that it Avould not be 
enough to say of the event, that it has not fulfilled 
their expectations ; — it has contradicted them in a 
manner the most pointed, and, in some respects, 
even the most humiliating. Notwithstanding, there- 
fore, the extraordinary character of the great facts, 
on which the Apostles rested their proof of Jesus 
being the predicted Messiah, yet I do not think that 
a knowledge of human nature will warrant us in 
feeling much surprise, at his pretensions having been 
rejected by a majority of the nation. In comparison 
with the notions which the Jews had formed of the 


meaning of the Promise made to mankind, the 
Christian interpretation — high and mysterious as the 
doctrines involved in it may be — wouhl seem, as has 
been observed, to be infinitely sober and probable. 
But such was not, and was not likely to be, the 
opinion of the Jews ; nor indeed, if we attend closely 
to the terms of the question, am I prepared to say 
that the evidence was such, at this stage of the proof, 
as necessarily to compel the full assent of the under- 
standing. There was left a wide ground for doubt 
and conjecture, and wonder, even in the view of 
many, who may be supposed to have embraced the 

If the principle of interpretation, by which the 
Apostles explained the meaning of the prophecies, 
was admitted, one thing was clear ; namely, that 
the Promise made to mankind had not been ful- 
filled, and would not be fulfilled, according to the 
sense, on which the Jews had built their expectations. 
But neither had it been fulfilled at that time, accord- 
ing to the sense which the Christians contended for. 
The nations of the earth still walked in the valley of 
the shadow of death ; their idols of silver and gold 
were still seen on the hills, and in every high place. 
Kings and jmnces had not become the nursing 
fathers of Christ's Church, neither had the nations 
flowed into it. The knowledge of the Lord, instead 
of covering the earth as the waters cover the sea, 
was still confined to his chosen people — upon them 


only had the light shined : — If then the " times" of 
the Messiah had come, where were the signs of his 
appearing ? 

If it was true that Jesus had risen from the dead, 
and that many wonderful works had shewn them- 
selves forth in his name; and if it was the design of 
God to exalt this name above every name, and to 
make it one, at which every knee should bow, of 
things in heaven, and things on earth, and things 
under the earth, — this would, perhaps, afford an inter- 
pretation of the prophecies consistent with what 
God had really promised, though not with the 
construction put upon them by the Jews. When 
such a design should have been visibly accomplished, 
then it would be plain that the latter had mistaken 
the mind of God. But the question was one of fact, 
relating to the meaning of prophecy, and M'hich 
could be determined only by the event. 

In the meanwhile, abundant room was afforded 
for conjecture and opinion. For so long as the Jewish 
dispensation was standing, and heathenism continued 
to be the predominant religion of the world, and all 
things else the same, to outward appearance, as before 
the preaching of the Gospel, the question. Who Jesus 
was, and what the end of his coming? would seem, 
in any view of it, to have remained open. However 
strong the reasons may have been, for the belief 
which the Apostles and their immediate followers 
entertained, yet, at least, the door was not shut upon 
the contrary belief. Jesus Christ might be the true 


Messiah ; but it was not his coming into the world 
which was sufficient to fulfil the prophecies, either in 
the Jewish sense or in any other. This was an indis- 
pensable condition of that fulfilment, and an essential 
part of the scheme, which it was his object to com- 
plete ; nevertheless, until Christianity was established, 
or at least, until its future triumph had become a 
probable event in the eyes of mankind, the proof 
of its divine authority could not be demonstrated : 
speaking as a Jew, whether Jesus of Nazareth were 
that prophet who was to come, or whether mankind 
were to seek another, was a point which still re- 
mained to be conclusively determined. 

But according to this way of reasoning, it will 
perhaps be thought, that the demonstration of the 
truth of revelation would not have been possible. 
If the establishment of Christianity presupposed the 
antecedent fulfilment of certain stated prophecies ; 
and the fulfilment of those prophecies, on the other 
hand, presupposed the antecedent establishment of 
Christianity — the case was brought to a stand-still. 
It was reduced to a dilemma, from which there was 
no way of escape, except on the illogical, or worse 
than illogical hypothesis, of the establishment of 
Christianity in the world having preceded the evi- 
dence, on which its proof depended. 

No doubt, if the divine authority of Christianity 
had been a metaphysical truth, the difiiculty as here 
stated, would have been insuperable, lint T need 
hardly say that such is not the case. In the alVairs 


of life, mankind constantly believe, from probable 
evidence only, that particular events will come to 
pass, and act on the confidence of their doing so. It 
is the same even in science. Philosophers some- 
times believe things to be true, before they know 
them to be facts. If we take the law of gravitation 
for granted, and apply it to the condition of our 
planet in the solar system, it would appear from 
mathematical reasoning, that the earth, instead of 
being an exact sphere, must be flattened towards 
the poles ; and that its polar diameter ought to be 
shorter than the other by about thirty miles. It is 
now ascertained that the fact corresponds with this 
conclusion ; but the latter was believed by philo- 
sophers, before its truth had been verified by actual 

At the period of which I am now speaking, it was 
just the same in the case of Christianity. A large 
number of persons, both in Judea and elsewhere, by 
comparing the events related in the New Testament 
with a variety of prophecies contained in the Old, 
had come to the conclusion, that the long-expected 
time had arrived, when the Jewish covenant w^as 
to be done away, and a new and more perfect co- 
venant to be substituted, agreeably to God's promise, 
in its place. This was a matter of doubt, and con- 
jecture, and controversy, if we please ; and as such, 
it would be believed by some and rejected by others ; 
and the partisans of either belief would hold their 
respective opinions, some with more and some with 


less confidence. But it is evident that, so long as 
the Jewish polity and institutions continued to sub- 
sist, the question was necessarily surrounded with 
much difficulty. Assuming the divine authority of 
the Gospel, its establishment among mankind, jointly 
with the establishment of the Jewish law, must have 
seemed to involve a contradiction. On such a suppo- 
sition, it must have been clear that the divine obliga- 
tion of the latter was at an end. But by what demon- 
strative argument was it possible to show this, so 
long as the Temple of Jerusalem was standing, and 
could number among its worshippers, not only a 
majority of the inhabitants of Judea, but thousands 
and hundreds of thousands, " out of every nation 
under heaven?" 

If we examine the Epistles of St. Paul, or even 
the Acts of the Apostles, it will at once appear how 
important a place this controversy occupied, in the 
estimation of all parties, at the time to which I 
am now referring. The obligation of the Jewish 
law was the question debated in the first council 
that was held in the Church. That and the calling 
of the Gentiles (which in fact are one and the same 
question) constitute the entire subject of the three 
most elaborate Epistles of St. Paul, and are empha- 
tically alluded to in most of the others. It was a 
subject of debate, and even of angry discussion, not 
only among the brethren in general, but for a time 
even among the Aj)ostles themselves. Some appear 
to have sui)posed that the Jewish law was still binding 


upon the consciences of those who had received cir- 
cumcision ; others, that it was only expedient ; others, 
that it was indifferent. But St. Pa,ul maintained, 
and at length united the suffrages of all the Apostles 
in his opinion, that it was absolutely unlawful. It 
was keeping up that partition-wall, which it was the 
very object of the Gospel to break down ; and threw 
a doubt upon the revelation of that great mystery, 
which had been hidden, as St. Paul says of the 
calling of the Gentiles, from the foundation of the 
world. Practically, it was a denial of the fulfilment 
in Jesus Christ, of the Promise made to mankind 
from the beginning, — an evident countenancing of 
the Jews, in their rejection of him as the Saviour. 

These, however, and similar arguments, were rea- 
sons, but not proofs; at least, not demonstrative 
proofs. They did not carry conviction even to the 
minds of many who professed to be converts to the 
Gospel. Of course they would not silence the objec- 
tions of opponents ; and on any supposition, the 
burthen of proof rested clearly with the former. If, 
as they asserted, the Jewish law was done away, it 
was a fact of which there was no visible sign ; and 
one, which it was almost impossible to determine, on 
speculative grounds of reasoning. 

But the period was approaching, when such argu- 
ments would no longer be required. A proof of 
a totally different kind was then in preparation ; 
by which the cessation of the Mosaic dispensation, 
supposing the institution of it to have been from 


God, would seem to have been as clearly pronounced 
as if it had been abrogated in words. The proof 
to which I am now alluding was the destruction of 

In order to understand the important bearing of 
this event upon the point before us, it will be neces- 
sary to remember, that the Temple of Jerusalem 
among the Jews, was not like the temple of Apollo 
at Delos, or of Diana at Ephesus, among the hea- 
thens : — merely one of many celebrated temples, in 
which worshippers assembled ; — but it was the only 
temple belonging to the nation. Though the Jews, 
at that time, were dispersed in vast numbers 
throughout the world, and had synagogues, where 
they met together for the purpose of religious in- 
struction, in almost every city, — yet they were not 
permitted to perform any of the rites of public 
worship ; that is, they were not allowed to offer up 
any sacrifices nor to build any altar, except at 
Jerusalem. There alone the priests could officiate, 
or the Levites perform the duties of their daily min- 
istration. There it was that the three great Feasts, 
of the Passover, and of the Pentecost, and of the 
Tabernacles, were to be solemnized ; and every male 
was commanded to attend annually at each of these 
solemnities, however distant his abode might be, or 
whatever the difficulties of the journey. 

It ])lainly appears, therefore, that after the de- 
struction of the city and temple by Titus, the 
observance of all that part of the law, which re- 


garded the national worship, became, and has ever 
since continued to be, impossible. By forbidding 
afty oblation or any offering for sin to be made 
except in the place where the ark of the covenant 
was deposited, the religion of the Jews was, as it 
were, nailed down to one spot ; and its temporary 
character also, considering what the history of the 
world has been, had been no less distinctly signified. 
Supposing a declaration to this effect to have been 
intended by God, his meaning could hardly have been 
more clearly pronounced. 

Taking then the terms of the Jewish Law into 
tlie account ; and considering, at the same time, the 
extraordinary character of the events, out of which 
the question about its further obligation had arisen — 
it would seem, that the naked fact of the destruction 
of the city and temple of the Jews, and the total 
desolation of their nation, happening at such a junc- 
ture, — must have been more than a mere presump- 
tive proof of its having been put an end to by divine 
authority, in the minds of persons who, as in the case 
before us, had before agreed in ascribing its origin to 
God. If, however, we suppose them to have believed, 
that the dissolution of the Jewish polity was a provi- 
dential event, — the effect of a decree, which had gone 
forth at the very time when this polity was esta- 
blished, — the conclusion would be demonstrative. 
People might have shut their eyes to the evidence 
on which such a supposition was based, but, if they 


believed the premises, to deny the inference was 

So far then as concerns that part of the questioli, 
which related simply to the continued obligation to 
observe the Jewish Law, nothing can be more plain, 
than that the position of the argument became en- 
tirely changed, after the overthrow of the nation. 
The case of Christianity was not merely improved, 
but it stood upon different ground. Even if there 
was nothing more to be said, except the fact, that 
the rise of the Christian religion in the world was 
coincident, both in time and place, with the fall of 
the Jewish, — yet would this alone, in the minds of 
persons believing that the things related by the 
Apostles had really happened, have been regarded 
as a divine testimony, in favour of the doctrines 
which they taught. 

But however confident their belief might have 
been under such circumstances, yet would it be im- 
measurably strengthened, if we suppose the events 
in question, not only to have been joined together in 
the course of God's Providence, but to have l)cen con- 
nected with each other in the same general scheme 
of prophecy : — to have been spoken of, as one and 
the same event, in particular predictions ; and to have 
been so apprehended, in the distinct expectation o\' 
thousands and tens of thousands, at a time when the 
religion of the Jews was yet in all its splendour, and 
before the name of Christianity was known. 


The proof of this proposition is the point which 
we have now to examine. I am to shew, not that 
the rise of the Christian, and the fall of the Jewish 
religion, were merely contemporaneous events ; not, 
that the one event merely presupposed the other, 
or might be inferred from a comparison of the dis- 
pensations with each other ; but that they were ex- 
pressly joined together in the scheme of prophecy ; 
that the connection between them was the subject of 
positive revelation, — the proof of which, after the 
destruction of Jerusalem, was a matter of fact, super- 
seding all merely general grounds of reasoning, and 
absorbing for ever all minor questions and circum- 
stantial disputes. 

I am not able to point out any passage of the 
New Testament, from which it can be shewn, that 
this event, at the time when it happened, was ex- 
pected either by Jews or Christians. But since it 
came to pass, its miraculous character has never 
been called in question by either party. Both Jews 
and Christians have ever considered it as the fulfil- 
ment of prophecies, which were well known to both. 
The only difference of ojiinion has been, as to the 
meaning and design of God. That it was his imme- 
diate act, has never, I believe, from the time when 
it happened to the present, been made a question 
by any believer in the Old Testament. 

There are many passages in the sacred writings, in 
which allusion is made to the days when God would 
make a revelation to mankind, of a better and more 



spiritual law, than that which he gave the Jews at 
Mount Sinai. And the terms in which the promise 
is expressed, convey most clearly a supposition of 
the future abrosfation of that covenant. It answered 
the purposes of Maimonides to call this last opinion 
into question ; but I believe he was the first Jew 
who did so ; and his reasoning has been strongly 
condemned by some of his own nation, as contrary 
both to Scripture and tradition. That it is contrary 
to the former, may easily be demonstrated by any 
one, who will take the trouble to examine the 
several places in the Old Testament, in which the 
future revelation is described. And that it is con- 
trary to the latter, is a point of fact, admitting of 
easy proof, by any one who will take the trouble to 
consult the earlier writings of the Jews, 

But the case requires no testimony from tradition. 
The temporary character of the Jewish Law, as I 
before observed, is a part of the hypothesis on which 
it was framed. It could not have been intended by 
God to answer any thing more than some interme- 
diate purpose. The total silence which it maintains 
as to doctrine ; (for the unity of God, if made known 
by revelation, was not first communicated to the 
Jews by Moses ;) its incompleteness, as a code of 
morals; the exclusion from its communion, of all 
nations except the descendants of Abraham, suffi- 
ciently indicate so much. But ])utting aside all 
considerations of this kind, — the circumstance before 
adverted to, that the continuance of the Jewish Law 


vvas made impossible, except on a supposition of the 
continuance of the Jewish nation in Judea, and of 
the maintenance of the Temple at Jerusalem, is 
plainly inconsistent with a belief in its intended per- 
petual obligation. For such an opinion must pre- 
suppose that the city and temple of the Jews^ 
instead of being destined to destruction, were to be 
miraculously preserved. 

But it is not necessary to shew the temporary 
character of the Mosaic dispensation, either by 
internal or external proofs. It was so declared 
from the beginning, on an authority which those, 
who were the subjects of that dispensation, could 
not doubt. For the very person to whom the de- 
claration of the Law was committed, announced at 
the same time, that it would come to an end. 
Viewed simply as a prophecy, there is perhaps not 
one in the whole volume of the Old Testament, so 
remarkable in itself, and in the exactness with which 
it has been fulfilled, as the prediction by Moses, of 
the final destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion 
of the Jews, contained in the twenty-eighth chapter 
of Deuteronomy. As the line of our present argument 
does not require me to demonstrate the truth of the 
prophecies, but only to shew the place which this 
evidence held in the minds of men, at the time when 
Christianity was first preached, I shall not dwell 
upon the particular contents of this remarkable 
passage of Scripture ; but only observe generally, 
that in every way, it is worthy of attention. Its 



pathos and sublimity place it in a high rank, when 
viewed simply as a composition; and if considered 
as a prophecy, its claim to our attention is of a far 
higher kind. We are, however, now considering, not 
the divine inspiration of this important prophecy, but 
the place at which it enters into the Evidences of 
Christianity, with a view to understand the relative 
position of the argument before and after the de- 
struction of Jerusalem. 

In the stage of it at which we are now arrived, 
the proof depended upon the evidence to shew, that 
the obli oration to observe the Mosaic Law had ceased. 
No Jew who admitted so much, would hesitate to 
accept the interpretation put upon the Old Testa- 
ment by the Apostles. I shall not stop to shew 
this by quotations from the Epistles ; every one who 
is familiar with those of St. Paul, must be aware 
that the renunciation of all righteousness by the 
Law, is the leading doctrine of them all. 

Now, by what evidence was he able to demonstrate 
this? It was not a proposition of which a Jew 
would be convinced by any general reasoning; and 
the utmost which could be effected from a considera- 
tion of the types and prophecies, was to shew, that 
the Law would thereafter cease. But the Apostles 
affirmed, that sacrifices under the Law actually were 
abolished : that mankind were freed, both from them 
and from all the other ordinances of JMoses. This was 
a necessary consequence of the doctrines M'hich they 
preached. But admitting it to be true, by what evi- 


dence could it be proved ? It might be a probable 
opinion ; and as such, it was embraced by the ma- 
jority of the disciples. But it was not embraced 
even by the whole of them ; and, after all, it was 
only an opinion ; it did not, like the doctrine of 
Christ's divinity, or atonement, rest at this period 
upon any evidence of facts. Even if the Apos- 
tles were right, yet as things then were, the actual 
knowledge of its truth was confined to God. So 
long as Jerusalem was standing, and the people 
allowed to dwell in their own land ; so long as their 
temple was upheld in all its magnificence, and sacri- 
fices daily offered upon its altars ; and all things, to 
use the words of the Jews, as quoted by St. Peter, 
in reference to this very argument, " continued the 
same as they were from the beginning of the crea- 
tion," — the doctrine preached by the Apostles on this 
point, not only must have seemed to be, but really 
was, a bold deduction from the premises, even assum- 
ing those premises to be true. The data were not 
demonstrative. The efficacy of the law of works 
might have ceased ; but so long as worship was paid 
to God at Jerusalem, and all the ceremonial rites 
enjoined by Moses, punctually performed, the fact 
was incapable of proof. It was among the secret 
things which could be known only to God. Nor un- 
less it pleased him to determine the question, by 
some miraculous intimation of his will, is it easv to 
see in what way the controversy was ever to have 
been decided. For there was no human authority by 


which it could be determined ; nor any testimony, 
except God's, from which there would be no appeal. 

Under these circumstances, and in the very height 
of the argument — at a time when we may suppose 
men's minds to have been distracted by contending 
opinions, and when doubts and difficulties must have 
perplexed the understanding even of the wisest — such, 
was the moment fixed upon by God for ending the 
controversy. And how was this testimony pro- 
nounced? It was in a way not to be mistaken. 
Suddenly Jerusalem was encompassed with armies — 
siege was laid to the city, — the temple was destroyed 
— and the whole nation was scattered as with a whirl- 
wind, through every region of the earth. If all 
parties, on both sides of the question, had agreed to 
refer the controversy to the divine arbitrement, and 
had consulted together, as to what proof they would 
mutually abide by — it may justly be doubted, whether 
they could have fixed upon a testimony so unam- 
biguous in itself, or so exactly applicable to the par- 
ticular point, which was to be determined. 

I shall not stop to weigh the force of this testi- 
mony. We know that the Jews in general did not 
receive it. They renounced not one jot of their 
hopes ; they abated none of their j)retensions. TJiey 
continued to assert the obligation of the Law of 
Moses ; and rejected more strenuously than ever the 
divine authority of the Gospel. We are not calhMl 
upon to account for their conduct at this particular 
juncture. It may have been the natural result of 


those habits of thinking which had been so deeply 
rooted in their minds, respecting the future exal- 
tation of their own nation ; — or it may have been, as 
the language of prophecy will fully warrant us in 
believing, the effect of a judicial blindness. It is 
enough, that we have only to read Josephus, in order 
to be abundantly satisfied that sense, and reason, and 
deliberation, had no share in any of their actions at 
this period. 

Be this, however, as it may ; our business is only 
with facts, and with the reasoning immediately built 
upon them. 

Admitting, then, that the destruction of Jerusalem 
afforded evidence to prove the abolition of the Mosaic 
covenant, — yet it may be said, that this fact alone 
did not necessarily demonstrate the divine authority 
of the Christian — To us, in the present day, it should 
certainly seem that this acknowledgment would have 
followed as a necessary consequence. Nevertheless, 
as, in the absence of all other evidence, it was not a 
strict logical inference, except in the minds of those 
who had witnessed, or otherwise knew and believed, 
the miracles of Christ, and the various events con- 
nected with his life and ministry on earth ; — I shall 
now proceed to show, from the other circumstances 
of the case, that this same event afforded, not only a 
demonstration of the Jewish covenant having been 
abolished, but was so plain a testimony to the truth 
of Christ's pretensions, as no argument from reason 
could have supplied. 



We have seen, that the Jewish Law, of necessity, 
ceased with the city and ])olity of the Jews. This 
last expired, not by slow declension, but came to a 
violent termination. Even had the destruction of 
Jerusalem been a casual event, unconnected M'ith 
any assigned and foreknown intention of God, it 
would still have put a period to the JMosaic cove- 
nant ; for thenceforth its observance became impos- 
sible. But as the sudden overthrow of the Jewish 
state was foretold by its Founder, at the very time 
when the covenant was proclaimed, we are obliged 
to consider the abolition of the Law, which Mas a 
necessary consequence, as having been from the first 
included in the same divine scheme; and cannot look 
upon one as being the act of CJod, without regarding 



the other as being his act likewise. But did thfs 
supposition necessarily involve an acknowledgment 
of the divine authority of the Christian covenant ? 
The two things are easily separated in idea ; if there 
was any indissoluble connection between them in 
God's dispensations, it must be demonstrated, not by 
reasoning, but by the words of revelation. 

This point we shall now proceed to examine ; and 
I shall endeavour to shew, from the prophecies, that 
the same miraculous event, by which the termination 
of the Mosaic dispensation was to be made known 
to mankind, was also the stated signal, by which the 
commencement of the Christian was to be pro- 

The Jews tell us that after the fall of the city, 
R. Jose exclaimed, " Alas ! the times of the Messiah 
are past !" By the " times of the Messiah " was 
understood the calculated period, after which all 
hope of his coming, according to the Promise, would 
be at an end. And so clearly is this period, by the 
confession of the Jews themselves, now passed by, 
that an anathema is pronounced in the Talmud upon 
any one, by whom, for the future, the times shall be 
computed. Indeed, some of their Rabbins affirm 
that the Messiah is come, but has not been revealed 
to the Jews, in consequence of the impenitence of 
the people. 

On examining this computation, the passages of 
Scripture, from which the Jews deduced their calcu- 
lations, appear to have been not more than four, viz. 


Genesis xlix. 10; Haggai ii. 7, 8, 9 ; Malachi iii. 1 ; 
and Daniel ix. 24, 25, 26, 27. I shall reserve the 
prophecy of Daniel for a more detailed examination ; 
but with respect to the others, every one of whicli is 
distinctly referred to the time of the Messiah's 
advent by the Targums, we may observe that they 
intimate no fixed positive date, but only define the 
period beyond which he was not to be expected. 
" He was to come suddenly to his temple ;" and in 
consequence of his personal presence, the " glory " 
of this " latter house " was to be greater than the 
" glory of the former," and the time of his coming 
was to be while the city and state of the Jews were 

These marks, it may be remarked, are negative and 
not affirmative ; they do not fix upon the time when 
the " Desire of all nations " was to appear ; but only 
limit the epoch, beyond which, this hope was not to 
extend. Whenever the second temple should cease 
to exist ; or whenever " the sceptre should depart 
from Judah," and " the lawgiver from between his 
feet," — that is, when the Jews should cease to exist as 
the subjects of a separate state, living under their 
own laws and institutions, the " times " of the JNIes- 
siali's coming, as limited by these prophecies, would 
be at an end. One point, however, is very distinctly 
and affirmatively foreshown: which is, the dependence 
of this event upon the existence of the state, and 
city, and temple of the Jews. In each of the above 
j)rediction8, the calculation is pinned upon one or 


other of these ; and when they had come to an end, 
all future hope of the Messiah's advent was demon- 
strably excluded. 

It is plain, however, that at the time when the 
New Testament was written, no argument could be 
based upon any of the above passages. The second 
temple lasted about five hundred years ; but, for any 
thing which could have been proved from them, it 
might have lasted a thousand years longer. Never- 
theless, it is clearly intimated in various places of 
the New Testament, that the Jews, at that time, 
believed the period to have arrived, or to be nearly 
approaching, when the Messiah would appear. 
False Christs had already arisen ; and from this 
date, as we learn in Josephus, the public mind was 
kept in a state of perpetual disquiet, owing to daily 
rumours, and successive attempts at imposition. I 
shall, in another place, have occasion to show that 
the popular excitement was not confined to Judea, 
or to the Jews ; but at present our business is with 

The question is, from what passage of Scripture was 
this belief and eager expectation derived ? Now, the 
answer to this question is not difficult ; for there is 
only one passage in the whole volume of the Old 
Testament, from which any conjecture as to the actual 
period when the Messiah was to come, could possibly 
have been formed. In that passage, the coming of 
the Messiah, and the destruction of Jerusalem, are 
spoken of as if they were parts of one and the same 



event ; and the generation of mankin(), in wliieli they 
would come to pass, is as clearly defined, as if the 
prophet had been speaking of a past occurrence, 
instead of one which belonged to posterity. 

The prophecy to which I am now alluding, is to be 
found in the ninth chapter of Daniel, and is well 
known as the vision " of the seventy weeks." The 
prediction which it contains is so remarkable in 
itself; it bears so immediately upon the point I am 
now more particularly adverting to ; and affords so 
clear a testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testa- 
ment, as well as to the divine authority of the New, 
that I shall make no apology for dwelling upon it, at 
greater length than I have deemed necessary, in the 
case of the other prophecies, which have fallen under 
our consideration. 

I need hardly say, that no doubt exists, as to the 
authenticity of the book of Daniel, or as to the age 
in which he lived. There is demonstrable evidence to 
prove, that it was composed many ages before Christ 
was born ; and that it was inserted in the canon by 
the Jews, who lived immediately after the captivity. 
Joseph us observes, that Daniel was to be considered 
as among the greatest of all the prophets, inasmucli 
as not only did he foretell things to come, as other 
pro})hcts also had done, but also the exact time of 
their happening. When Limborch, in his Arnica 
Collatio, asks Orobio to state his reason for believing 
in the divine authority of Moses, at the same time 
that he rejects the autliority of C'luist : the answer 


is, that Daniel, who was beyond all doubt and con- 
testation divinely inspired, has given his testimony 
to JNIoses. I quote this, to shew the sort of exclusive 
esteem in which this prophet continues to be held 
among the Jews ; the ground of which, however, it 
will be difficult to exj)lain, except we suppose it to 
be the opinion entertained by them of the particular 
prophecy now before us. 

It is plain that the part of it, to which Josephus is 
immediately adverting, must be that, where Daniel 
foretels the period when the " people of the Prince 
that was to come, would destroy tlie city and the 
sanctuary." For although there are some other very 
remarkable predictions in this book (to one of M-hich 
Josephus refers) yet this is the only one in which the 
time is specified. I am not aware of any probable 
objections or difficulties, as connected M-ith this cele- 
brated prophecy. The only reason for questioning its 
jirophetical character, is that which Cicero alleges, in 
refutation of some Sibylline oracles — that the writer, 
when he delivered it, was in perfect possession of 
his mind : " hoc scriptoris est, no?i furentis ; adhibentis 
diligentiam, non insani." This objection, as we read 
in St. Jerome, was dwelt upon by Porphyry ; but it 
may be summarily dismissed by observing, that be 
the writer who he may, or what he may, he lived 
some hundred years before the events which he 
l^redicted, came to pass. The destruction of Jerusalem 
(to refer to some former remarks) was not a pre- 
diction, which needed to be expressed darkly or under 


figurative allusions, lest men should combine to de- 
feat or to bring about its fulfilment. It belonged 
to a class of events, which it was far beyond the 
power of individuals, either to cause or prevent. 

Omitting, then, all merely critical questions, and 
confining our remark to the contents of Daniel's i)ro- 
phecy, it may be proper to premise that the word 
" week," which so often occurs in it, is not limited in 
Scripture language to the numeration of days, but is 
frequently employed in the Old Testament as a reck- 
oning of years. Thus in Leviticus \ speaking of the 
Jubilee, Moses says, " And thou shalt number seven 
sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years." 
— And again, in Numbers -, " After the number of 
the days in which ye searched the land, even forty 
days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities." 
The same way of speaking is used by EzekieP: "And 
thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 
forty days : I have appointed thee each day for a 
year." This form of expression does not appear to 
have been confined to the Jews. Varro tells us 
(quoted by Aulus Gellius, III. c. 10.), that at the 
time when he was then writing, he had " entered the 
twelfth week of his life :" " sejam duodecim annorum 
hcbdomadam ingressum esse." Another passage to the 
same effect, which has been quoted by commenta- 
tors, is found in Macrobius, — " Sed a se.rfa us<juc ad 
septimam septimimam, fit (juidem diminution sed occii/fa : 

' Ch. XXV. 8. - Ch. xiv. 34. ' Cli. iv. G. 


— ideo nommllat'um repiMicarum hie mos est, ut post 
sewtam, ad militiam nemo rogatur" 

Come we now to the passage from Daniel ' : 
" Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and 
upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to 
make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for 
iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, 
and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint 
the Most Holy. Know, therefore, and understand, 
that from the going forth of the commandment to 
restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the 
Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two 
weeks : the street shall be built again, and the wall, 
even in troublous times. And after threescore and 
two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for him- 
self : and the people of the prince that shall come 
shall destroy the city and the sanctuary ; and the end 
thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of 
the war desolations are determined. And he shall 
confirm the covenant with many for one week : and 
in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice 
and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading 
of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until 
the consummation, and that determined shall be 
poured upon the desolate." 

Now I shall not stop to inquire whether the 
writings of Daniel ought to be ranked among the 
prophecies of the Old Testament, or only among 

» Ch. ix. 24—27. 


the Hagiographa. It is certain, that the above words 
wore written many years before Christ came into the 
world ; and that they were considered by the Jews 
of that age (as is evident from Josephus, and indeed 
from the narrative of the events themselves, which 
caused the rebellion of the nation), to contain a pre- 
diction of the period, at which their Messiah ought 
to be expected. 

Another point not less indisputable is, that this 
prophecy does not, like those before adverted to, 
merely limit this expectation ; it distinctly intimates 
the exact age in which it was to receive its fulfilment. 
It moreover marks the age in which the promised 
Messiah was to appear, not only by numbering the 
intervening years, but by the stipulation of an acces- 
sary event, which no human wisdom could have 
foreseen ; and both these things it does, in language 
so clear and unambiguous, as to prevent the possibility 
of a dispute, as to the meaning of the prophecy. 

A stated historical fact is specified; four hundred 
and ninety years after it, the Messiah was to appear ; 
and at this time the oblation and the sacrifice 
were to cease, by the destruction of the city and the 
sanctuary ; and this was to happen by war. More- 
over, another fact is stated, about the meaning of 
which there could be no dispute ; and this was, that 
the Messiah was to suffer death. Neither res])C('t- 
ing this ])oint, nor tlie name of the city and temj)le, 
of which these things were predicted, could there 
have been, at the time when Jerusalem was de- 


stroyed, any possible controversy, either among Jews 
or Christians ; nor (supposing them to have had this 
prophecy in their hands) even among lieathens. It 
was a plain legible record, and clear of any obscurity 
as to its construction. The debateable part of the 
document relates to the name and identity of the 
person, whom the author of it intended to signify, 
under the title of " Messiah the Prince." Admitting 
the truth of all that the Apostles had related of 
Jesus Christ, and even supposing the facts them- 
selves to have been generally believed, yet it was 
still open to discuss — who Jesus Christ was, and 
whether he was *'that prophet that should come 
into the world?" The miracles attributed to Christ 
will explain the reason of this question having been 
raised among the Jews and eagerly debated ; but 
the determination of it, depended upon the proofs 
adduced to show, that not only this, but all the 
other various marks which had been mentioned, and 
by which the Messiah, when he came, was more 
especially to be known, had likewise been fulfilled. 

With respect to these marks, this prophecy of 
Daniel would seem to be the least ambiguous of any 
in the Old Testament ; yet none has given rise to a 
greater variety of opinions. The cause of this has 
evidently been an endeavour, on the part of com- 
mentators, to assign a more punctual and curious 
fulfilment to the prophecy, than we can reasonably 
suppose to have been in the contemplation of God. 

Assuming the prophecies of the Old Testament to 



have been ^vTitten under the divine inspiration, it is 
not to be thought, that the object of them was merely 
to demonstrate to mankind, God's knowledge of future 
events. Some other and higher end than this must 
be presumed, if we suppose him to be their author. 
We know that the general design of God's disclo- 
sures to the Jews, looked to a more specific revelation 
of himself than this; and we may be equally sure, 
that in predicting any j)articular event connected 
with his Promise, the end immediately in view must 
have been some purpose, which made it necessary for 
mankind to be informed of the generation in which 
it was to happen ; and not merely to excite wonder, 
by an exact and curious coincidence, between the 
words of prophecy and any nice chronological accu- 
racy of calculation. 

Had the Jews known beforehand the very month 
or year in which the Messiah was to be " cut off," 
nothing short of an almost miraculous interposition 
of Providence could have constrained them, as was 
before observed, to be themselves the instruments of 
bringing that event to pass. Such a knowledge on 
their part would plainly have been rather a hindrance 
to the design of God, than a help to its fulfilment. 
The end for which the prophecy was intended re- 
quired only two things: — 1st, that the coming of 
the Messiah should be preceded by a knowledge of 
his near approach, antecedently to his actual a])pear- 
ance ; and ^ndly, that after receiving its fultilment, 
the fact sliould be capable of proof. In the present 


instance, we know from history, that the first of 
these objects was certainly obtained. The Messiah 
was confessedly expected, at the time when Jesus 
Christ appeared. And with respect to the second, 
we shall see that this was abundantly provided for. 
In truth, if we carry along with us, when examining 
this prophecy, a recollection of what was just now 
said about the end, which it is to be presumed was 
in the view of God, when this remarkable vision was 
communicated to Daniel — we can hardly fail to be 
struck with the more than wisdom, — I had almost 
called it the ingenuity, — by which the means for 
effecting that precise end were preconcerted. 

Before the prophecy had received its fulfilment, it 
was impossible for those whom it concerned, to pitch 
upon any definite point of time, on which to fix 
their expectation. For although the number of 
weeks was definite, yet the period from which they 
were to be calculated was not definite. Four decrees 
are named in Scripture, as having gone out for the 
restoration of the Temple. The interval between 
the first and the last of these is upwards of eighty 
years. But it was not until after the death of Christ 
and the destruction of Jerusalem, that the epoch 
contemplated in the prophecy could be ascertained. 
From the moment, however, the city was destroyed, 
all doubts were at an end. By counting backward, 
the period from which the weeks were to be com- 
puted was made known, and the truth of the pro- 
phecy was placed beyond dispute. Anterior to this, 



nothing more was revealed, except the near approach 
of the Messiah. 

There is also another circumstance important to 
remark, — which is, the notation of time here adopted. 
A common form of computation in Scripture is by 
generations. " In the fourth generation," says God 
to Abraham, " thy children shall come hither 
again ' ;" and in addressing the Jews, whether by 
way of threats or promises, it is often under the 
appellation, of a stubborn and rebellious, or of a pure 
and upright generation, that they are described. By 
this term were designated all who were living in the 
world at any fixed period; and the words of the 
Psalmist would give us to understand that the space 
of time implied was " threescore years and ten, or 
fourscore years," which he tells us were the allotted 
years of man upon earth. 

Now though the form of expression is changed, 
yet the same measure of time is adopted in the pro- 
phecy before us. " Seventy weeks of years," says 
Daniel, " are determined upon thy people, and upon 
thy holy city ;" that is, seven times seventy years, 
or seven generations. Moreover, the period of 
these generations is not divided into astronomical 
portions of time, but is computed by hebdomads, 
or " weeks." In calculating the several events 
foretold, it is therefore not the " year" which we are 
to look to, but the hebdomad. When it is said that 
such a fact happened in a certain year, wo do not 

' Gen. XV. 16. 


mean that it occurred in the last month of that year, 
but in any. So also in the interpretation of this 
prophecy of Daniel, — the point to ascertain is, simply 
in what week of the assigned generation, the several 
particulars which he enumerates occurred, and not 
in what year of that week, whether it be in the first, 
or second, or third. It will be important, on many 
accounts, to remember this remark, when examining 
the passage before us ; but especially because there 
is some uncertainty in the chronology of the events 
referred to. I do not mean that we are in danger of 
committing any wide error, in fixing the year in 
which Cyrus became master of Babylon, or in deter- 
mining the name of the year before Christ, which 
answers to the 7th or the 20tli of the reign of 
Artaxerxes Longimanus ; but we do not find that 
learned men are exactly agreed in their calculations. 
Another source of inexactitude is, that the length 
of the Chaldean year does not precisely agree with 
that of the Julian; sixty-nine years of the latter 
being equal to seventy of the former : a difference 
which, if not rectified from time to time, in ten 
generations would have amounted to as many years. 
These variations would be important in settling 
1 point in chronology ; but they are quite immaterial 
in the case before us. It was as impossible for 
Daniel to know, without the help of divine inspira- 
tion, that God would destroy Jerusalem in the last 
seven years of the eighth generation from the time 
in which he lived, as to know the dav, or month, or 


hour, of that event. And if in consequence of his 
prediction, those Avho lived in that generation were 
in expectation of the events coming to pass, which 
did come to pass — there could have been no room, in 
such a case, for any reasonable doubt, either as to the 
miraculous character of those events, or the divine 
inspiration by which they had been foretold. 

Bearing these things in mind, let us then take the 
prophecy in our hands, and see what it contains. And 
first, for the period or periods from which the several 
computations are to be made : The words are, " from 
the going forth of the commandment to restore 
Jerusalem." Now there were four decrees to this 
effect, of which three are mentioned by Ezra, and 
the last by Nehemiah. The first was by Cyrus, about 
the year 536 before Christ. The second by Darius 
Hystaspes, about the year 519 b. c. The third, in the 
seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, 457 B. c. The 
fourth, thirteen years later, in the twentieth of Arta- 
xerxes, 444 B. c. If we turn to Daniel, we shall also 
see that the several periods to be counted, are seventy 
weeks ; sixty-nine weeks ; sixty-two weeks ; seven 
weeks ; one week ; and a half week. The number of 
years which these several periods contain, is easily 
reckoned ; but I purposely omit any such computation, 
because the subject of the pro])hecy, as I have observed, 
is the number of weeks that would make up the in- 
tervening generations, and not the number of yeai"S. 

Taking the chronology of our l^ibles, (and that of 
any other system will equally answer the purpose, 


according to the latitude of calculation, which the 
prophecy, as just now explained, admits of,) and com- 
paring these dates with the several events — 1. of the 
birth of Christ ; — 2. the first preaching of the Gospel, 
under John the Baptist ; — 3. the death of Christ ; — 4. 
the destruction of Jerusalem ; — 5. the duration of the 
siege; — 6. the length of Christ's ministry from his bap- 
tism to his death — we shall find the results to be quite 
incapable of any explanation, except on the hypo- 
thesis of a divine inspiration. From the seventh of 
Artaxerxes to the death of Christ, are exactly seventy 
hebdomads complete. From the same epoch to the 
commencement of John's ministry, are exactly sixty- 
nine hebdomads. Counting from the end of the 
hebdomad in which the twentieth of Artaxerxes is 
fixed by our chronology, to the middle of the heb- 
domad in which Christ was born, is exactly sixty-two 
weeks. From the first preaching of the Gospel by 
St. John, (" the law and the prophets were till John, 
but now the kingdom of God is preached,") until 
the end of Christ's ministry, was one hebdomad. 
From the coming of Christ, that is, from the first 
preaching of the Gospel, to the destruction of Jeru- 
salem, are seven hebdomads ; and this event hap- 
pened exactly at the end of the first half of the 
seventh hebdomad, when " the sacrifice and obla- 
tion" visibly ceased. Or if we interpret these words 
as referring to the death of Christ, when they really 
ceased, then they were fulfilled in the last half of the 
first of the seven hebdomads, when the three years 
and a half of Christ's ministry was concluded. Our 


translation says, in " the inidst of the week," — but the 
Hebrew word 'Vm vachatsi, means not the " middle," 
but the " half," — dimidium hehdomadce is the transla- 
tion in Houbifjant's edition of the Hebrew Bible '. 

Now if a person should say, that the coincidences 
here pointed out happened only by chance, it would, I 
think, be a sufficient reply, that it is not in the power 
of any arithmetical notation, to express in numbers, the 
amount of the improbability represented by the agree- 
ment of so many events ; against every one of which, 
the odds were, what may be called infinite. But when 
we bear in mind that one of these events, was the total 
destruction of one of the greatest cities of antiquity ; 
and the other no less than the advent of an indivi- 
dual, whose coming into the world, be he who he 
may, has exercised a more important influence over 
the condition of mankind in general, than any other 
historical event M-hich is upon record, — it is evident 
that a solution of this kind is in reality no solution. 
Porphyry maintained that the book of Daniel must 
have been written after the events, because in his 
opinion, it was impossible that it should have been 
written before. Assuming the sup])osition of a divine 
inspiration to be impossible, he took up the only 

' I have limited my remarks to coincidences between the pn)- 
phecy and the history of the Gospel ; but if the " troublous times" 
when the " walls" were to be" built again," may be referred to 
the rebuilding of the Temple by llerod, 17 R-i., the date of this, 
counting from the 7th of Artaxerxcs, (from the 20lh, brings us 
to the birth of Christ,) falls within the (i9 hebdomads, specified 
in the USth verse. 


position that would seem to be open. But the early 
date is quite demonstrable, as I have said, even in 
the present day ; in the days of the Apostles, it must 
have been not only demonstrable, but notorious. 

Before bringing these remarks to a close, we may 
mention that the agreement of this well-lvnown pro- 
phecy with the truths of the Gospel, is not less exact 
than with the matters of fact connected with the 
history of its Founder. Those truths, as they have 
been received by mankind, are as clearly enounced 
by Daniel, as they were by the Apostles themselves. 
" Seventy weeks," says he, " are determined upon 
thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the 
transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to 
make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in 
everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision 
and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." — The 
INIessiah, moreover, was also to " be cut off, but not 
for himself." It is not necessary to offer any com- 
ment upon this part of the prophecy : the conformity 
of it with the faith established in the world by Jesus 
Christ, is a matter of which we are witnesses. 

I have now said enough to demonstrate that in 
the scheme of prophecy, the rise of the Gospel, and 
the downfal of the Jewish dispensation, were in- 
dissolubly united. No one who believed in the 
cessation of the latter, as declared in the sudden 
desolation of the Jewish state and nation, could 
see the evident connection of the same event with 
the coming of the Messiah, and doubt the divine 
authority of Christ. A person might deny both 


propositions, (as the Jews persisted in doing,) but he 
could not admit the one, without, at the same time, 
acceding to the other. 

Accordingly, from this period, we hear nothing 
more of judaizing Christians ; no farther allusion is 
made, in any Christian writings now in our posses- 
sion, to the duty of renouncing the law of Moses ; 
there was no longer any dispute about circumcision, 
or about the righteousness that was by the works of 
the law : — such controversies were settled for ever. 
From this period " the vision and the prophecy were 
sealed up," and each party made its election of one 
side or the other. There was thenceforth no inter- 
mediate class, whether calling themselves Jews or 
Christians ; or at least, none of sufficient importance 
to deserve attention. 

At this point, the scheme of evidence, on which 
Christianity was originally established, came to a 
close. The question of its divine or human authority 
must stand or fall, on the facts which had at this 
period been exhibited. No proof, having the cha- 
racter of a divine testimony, was afterwards vouch- 
safed ; no further miraculous attestation was aiforded ; 
nor need the Christian be concerned, by any diffi- 
culties or objections, deduced from the occurrences 
of a later period. If the facts related by the Evan- 
gelists, did not really happen ; or if the pro})hecies of 
the Old Testament relating to the INIessiah, had not 
been fulfilled in Christ, at the period when Jerusalem 
ceased to be numbered among the cities of the earth, 
— the argument is jit an md : nothing that has oc- 


curred since can make that now to be true, which 
was then untrue. But the converse of this proposi- 
tion is, at least, as plain. If the divine authority of 
Christianity had, at that period, been demonstrated, 
then — explain, as we please, its after success, whe- 
ther by secondary causes, or divine ; think, as we 
may, of its doctrines, as ever so contrary to our 
notions of probability, — except they can be shewn to 
be absurd, or impossible, or subversive of the happi- 
ness of mankind, they must be received as true. I 
do not mean merely to say, that they must be con- 
sidered as possible, or credible, or highly probable : — 
but that we must regard them as truths which cannot 
be called in question, without directly impugning the 
veracity of God. 

There is here no intermediate ground ; no room 
for what is called opinion. The contrary way of 
speaking is, indeed, customary. It is common to 
hear the evidences described as resting upon cumu- 
lative and probable, not upon demonstrative proofs. 
The distinction to be drawn lies in the word — rest. 
Cliristianity is supported by many probable argu- 
ments, but it does not rest upon them. There are 
many facts in natural philosophy, drawn from the 
flux or reflux of the sea, the alternations of winter 
and summer, of light and darkness, as well as many 
direct astronomical observations, all confirming our 
belief in the Principia of Newton. But the truth 
of Newton's Principia, nevertheless, does not rest 
upon the evidence of such facts and observations, but 


on one great and simple truth. So also in Chris- 
tianity, there are many converging arguments, from 
different quarters, some external and some internal, 
all uniting in the testimony which they bear to the 
divine origin of the Gospel : — nevertheless it is not 
upon them that its authority rests, but upon the 
revelations made to mankind in the Old Testament. 

This truth has been lost sight of among Chris- 
tians, because all writers upon the Evidences have 
latterly confined their attention to the probable 
proofs. First and chief among these, no doubt, are 
the miracles related in the New Testament. And 
had they been the foundation on which the revelation 
of the Gospel was raised, and not the main abutment 
merely, by which it was supported, the proof of its 
truth would unquestionably have been only probable. 
But we have seen that it was upon another founda- 
tion — on the evidence of a preconcerted dispensation, 
which had been many ages in preparation, that the 
evidence of Christianity was laid. Now, this was no 
probable principle of belief, but one which, if it can 
be proved, involves all the certainty of a mathema- 
tical demonstration. Assuming the proof, it would 
be as improper to speak of the Gospel, as a probably 
divine revelation, as to speak of the equality of the 
three angles of a triangle to two right angles, as a 
probably true relation. 

Had Christianity rested only on the evidence of 
the Old Testament, it would have been demonstrably 
certain, or it would have been nothing. As it is, 



even if this evidence be removed, our belief may fall 
back upon the miracles, and the proof will still be 
probable. But if we look to the New Testament 
itself, and examine the contents of the revelation 
there disclosed, it will immediately be apparent, that 
the sujiposition of a merely probable authority, can 
never have been in the mind of its author. 

If the religion of Christ, like that of Moses, had 
looked only to the obedience of mankind ; that is, 
had it only enjoined certain things to be done, and 
others to be left undone, — it would have sufficed to 
rest its authority on probable arguments only ; be- 
cause in matters of conduct, it is our duty to be 
guided by that light which is the clearest. A man 
who should follow, with his eyes open, a path which 
he believed would probably lead to his ruin, when 
another more safe was open to him, would sin as 
plainly against the rules of reason, as if the conse- 
quences had been certain. In such cases, we have no 
right to insist upon demonstrative evidence, but must 
be satisfied with probability. 

But the case is different in matters of belief. If 
a religion is proposed to mankind, in which the con- 
dition of God's favour is made to depend, not on any 
outward act, but on a deep and unshaken faith in the 
promises of God, — it would seem that the proofs of 
the reality of those promises ought not to be merely 
probable. To require a person to consider a fact as 
certainly true, when he knows that it may possibly 
be untrue ; to bid him be demonstratively sure, 


without reasons which are demonstrative, — would be 
a commandment quite inconsistent with our notions 
of God's justice; and one which woukl really place 
faith and reason in opposition to each other. 

The faith which is spoken of in the Bible, is not a 
mere lively belief in the evidences of the Gospel, but 
a firm reliance upon the hopes which it reveals ; a 
pious and undoubting assurance of God's infinite 
goodness and veracity. But then, this firm and 
unqualified conviction supposes us to be sure, that 
the promises made to us through Christ, rest upon 
divine authority. That point being demonstrated, 
it is easy to understand wherein the sinfulness of un- 
belief consists; for it supposes a doubt of God's truth, 
a distrust of his sincerity, a suspicion that he will not 
really perform that which he has declared. 

Few persons have the courage to put the ])roposi- 
tion to their minds in this form ; the common case 
of unbelief, is that of persons who disbelieve in the 
doctrine of salvation, as it has been interpreted by the 
Church, not because they are dissatisfied with tlie 
proof of the promise having been made by God, but 
because they consider the propositions which it con- 
tains to be impossible and absurd. This they boldly 
assume : — how wisely, is a question which ought to 
be first considered; bearing in mind that if they err, 
it is not with the aood and virtuous anion": mankind, 
nor yet with the truly wise and learned : — not with 
the Bacons, and Lockes, and Newtons; but Mith 
writers who — to say nothing of graver .accusations — 


are more quoted for the brilliancy of their wit, or the 
powers of their imagination, than for any extraordi- 
nary gifts of the understanding. 

At the time when Christianity first appeared, wit 
and satire were weapons which, though not legiti- 
mate, might yet be used without indecency. The 
employment of them, if not excusable, was natural ; 
because there is really so much folly and knavery in 
the world, that sensible men are unwilling to lend 
an ear to miraculous stories and pretended revela- 
tions, be the testimony, alleged in support of their 
truth, what it may. But the state of things is now 
altered. Christianity is no longer an obscure sect, 
but may almost be considered as the established 
religion of mankind. It numbers rich and poor, 
learned and ignorant, the wise as well as the unwise, 
among its disciples. This, indeed, does not prove 
that it is true; but it proves all that its friends 
need require ; which is, that its claims should be 
discussed with candour and openness of mind, as 
involving considerations which, on any supposition 
that we can frame, are of deep and serious interest. 
This would be true, even if it could be shown that 
Christianity was a mere legend. 

For let us suppose that it was not true ; that its 
pretensions to be a divine revelation had been re- 
futed; and that this was as clear as any propo- 
sition in Euclid. It will still be certain, that this 
religion exists ; and that its rise and })ropagation and 
present establishment in the world is the most extra- 


ordinary event, and the most deserving the attention 
of an historian, viewed simply as a pliilosophical phe- 
nomenon, of any recorded in the annals of mankind. 

If we examine the contents of this pretended re- 
velation (for so let it be considered), we find nothing 
there to explain its success. It would be difficult to 
frame any propositions, less calculated to have met 
acceptance on any speculative grounds of argument, 
or less subservient to the j)assions or vicious inclina- 
tions of mankind. With respect to its history, the 
orio-in of it is known ; it is not lost in the dark- 
ness of remote ages, like the fables of the Hindoo 
religion in modern times, or of the pagan mythology 
of antiquity. We know when this religion first 
appeared ; we can trace its progress in each^succeed- 
ing century, almost as certainly, as w^e can trace its 
influence on the manners and institutions of the 
generation of mankind, to which we ourselves belong; 
and we know that this influence is, beyond all com- 
parison, the most important element in the estimate 
of the causes, by which the state of society, as it at 
present exists in Europe, is distinguished. 

That mankind believe this religion to be of divine 
authority, and have always so believed, is a matter 
not to be disputed. Christianity may not be true, 
but it is certainly true, that mankind believe in 
Christianity. Whence then did this belief arise? 
It arose from causes of some sort ; it was built u})on 
reasons, good or bad ; upon evidence, true or false. 

All then that we ask, or have any right to ask, of 


an unbeliever is, that he will sit down to the exami- 
nation of these causes, with the same freedom from 
prejudice and passion, with which he would sit down 
to examine the history of Mahommedism, in the 
sixth and seventh centuries. Let the ground taken 
up be purely historical ; let the facts be stated 
nakedly, and without comment either favourable or 
adverse, to any ulterior conclusion ; — and we should 
risk little in saying, that the results will come out 
precisely the same, whether in the hands of the 
believer or unbeliever; and, moreover, that those 
results will be, to demonstrate that no explanation 
of the success of Christianity in the world can be 
proposed, except that which has been received. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a philosophical 
thesis, but pretends to be a revelation from God ; and 
if it be not this, it is nothing. Whatever then may 
have been the evidences on which it was built, if 
they were from Him, we may lay it down as an 
axiom to be assumed, that they were framed, not 
with a view to affect the reason and imagination of 
wits and men of the world, or of professed philo- 
sophers and free-thinkers, but the reason and imagi- 
nation of mankind at large. That they were such 
evidences, that is to say, as will appear to have 
been founded upon the common principles of human 
nature, and not selected with a view to meet mere 
metaphysical refinements. How would the facts, on 
which the belief of mankind shall appear to have 
been built, have acted upon the understanding of 


the general mass of the people in the world, at the 
time when they were first presented? This must 
surely be considered, as the proper test of divine 
authority, in a revelation intended for all mankind. 

If then, upon a mere historical inquiry into the 
actual facts, on the belief of which the Go!?pel 
was certainly built, it should turn out that they 
were in their own nature such, as that if they 
were again offered to mankind in the present or in 
any other age, the same result would and must ne- 
cessarily follow, — that would be evidence for affirm- 
ins: that the author of it was God. Whether this 
would entitle the evidence to be called demonstra- 
tive, in philosophical language, it is not necessary 
to examine. The origin of Christianity is not a 
question of abstract truth, but of fact; namely, 
whether certain doctrines, be they in themselves 
probable or improbable, were or were not promulged 
to mankind under divine authority. What we want, 
therefore, is not a metapliysical, but a practical 
definition, which the test just now proposed would 

On this test I have steadily endeavoured to keep 
my eye in the preceding Lectures : — in no instance, 
am I conscious of having ever drawn or attempted 
to draw any conclusion, except from facts which are 
historically certain ; and which would not be less 
certain, even though a second revelation from heaven 
should declare the Gospel itself to be a fable. 






The object of the preceding Lectures was to exa- 
mine generally the true use and design of the Old 
Testament. But there are some prophecies which 
I passed over without notice, as not having any 
direct or necessary connection with the evidences of 
Christianity. The predictions to which I am allud- 
ing, relate to the fortunes and vicissitudes of the 
Jewish and other surrounding nations. The greater 
number of these received their completion before 
the birth of Christ. One, the most remarkable of 
any, which related to the dispersion of the Jews, is 
still fulfilling under our eyes. But none of them 
have entered into any part of the reasoning, on 
which we have placed the proof of Christianity. It 


is then a natural question to ask : What was the 
use and intention of these numerous prophecies? 
The answer to this inquiry will lead to one or two 
points deserving of examination, as connected with 
the history of the propagation of Christianity. And 
as this subject is, in itself, one of deep interest, not 
to the theologian merely, but also to the philosopher 
and the historian, I proj^ose throwing together some 
remarks, suggested to my mind by the above ques- 
tion, hoping to incite others, who have more leisure 
and learning, to undertake a task of which I can 
only indicate some principal bearings. 

It is clear, from the New Testament, that the 
belief of Christianity, after the death of its Founder 
and first preachers, must have spread with an aug- 
mented, and not a diminished rate of increase. Now 
this suj^position, explain it as we will, seems to be 
altogether inconsistent with the hypothesis of no 
other causes, besides the miracles of Christ, having 
co-operated in its success. Had these constituted 
the single proof of his divine mission, it would have 
followed, that the effect must have been most appa- 
rent, nearest the spot where they were worked and 
the time when they happened ; and would have 
grown gradually weaker and slower, as the circle 
within which the report of them was spread, became 
wider and wider. 

Of the innumerable thousands who, we have reason 
to believe, had embraced Christianity before the ex- 
piration of the first century, how few can be sup- 


posed to have been eye-witnesses of the miracles of 
its Founder ! But it may be collected from the Acts, 
that even of these, the larger number lived neither at 
Jerusalem nor in Judea. A Christian Church had 
been formed at Rome some years before any of the 
Apostles had been there ; the same in other places ; 
and the narrative would lead us to believe, that the 
persons by whom the Gospel was most eagerly re- 
ceived, were thus circumstanced. 

In the view of reason, perhaps, the evidence for 
the truth of a miracle may be as certain to those, 
who lived a hundred years after the event, as to 
those who were present when it was performed. 
Supposing we possessed some infallible document to 
demonstrate, that it was believed by those who were 
upon the spot ; and such as to satisfy us, that if we 
had been present, our belief would have been the 
same as theirs, — our absence may alter the effect of 
the evidence upon our minds, but does not in the 
least affect the proof But great is the influence, 
we may almost call it the tyranny, exercised over the 
understanding by the senses and imagination. Speak- 
ing of mankind in the mass, we may safely assert, that 
the effect of any event, of a kind to excite wonder 
and astonishment, must always be more marked upon 
the minds of those who witnessed it, than of those 
whose knowledge has been obtained only at second- 
hand, and after a long interval of time. If the reverse 
of this should appear, in any instance, to be the case, it 
would afford a strong presumption, that the evidence 


of other circumstances, besides that of the facts 
themselves, must have been taken into the account ; 
that some light, real or supposed, must have broken 
in upon the minds of men ; some motives and 
reasons, such as were not accessible at first, or not 
clearly understood, over and above those, which 
appear on the face of things. 

Now there is no indication, in the history of 
Christianity, of any specific natural causes having 
intervened ; nor, after the destruction of Jerusalem, 
do we know of any that were miraculous, to explain 
this phenomenon, in the case before us. So far as 
human wisdom indeed, or human power, and learning, 
and authority, are concerned, the absence of all these 
causes of success is commonly stated among the 
proofs of its divine original. Upon a first view this 
is something more than a mere difficulty; it seems 
to be a paradox. For, see how the case stands. 

The evidence on which Christianity depends, was 
prepared and calculated solely for the Jews. It M^as 
communicated only to them ; by no other people was 
it, in the first instance, at all understood. — But on 
looking into history, contrary to all seeming ]iroba- 
bility of human nature, contrary to the very premises 
of the evidence itself, we find that the Jews, for 
whom it was intended, and to whom alone it had 
been made known, — did not receive it; while the 
nations to whom it had not been communicated — 
were rapidly converted. AVithin the lapse of two 
or three generations, polytheism, in all its ancient 


forms, was silently, and without violence, extermi- 
nated in Europe, and in the countries adjacent to 
the Roman empire ; while Judaism, which seemed to 
be torn up by the very roots, and scattered to the 
winds, by a catastrophe more overwhelming than 
ever before or since fell upon any nation, from the 
beginning of the world, not only survived in that 
age, but has continued to survive, amidst every 
variety of oppression and persecution, to the times 
we live in. 

We may not perhaps be allowed to adduce this 
extraordinary fact, as a proof of the divine origin of 
Christianity ; but at all events, and beyond all 
question, it alfords no presumption to the contrary. 
On the former supposition, it would admit of exjjla- 
nation ; but it admits of none, on the principles of 
human experience. Adopt, therefore, any view of the 
case we choose, — however paradoxical the fact may 
be, it is clearly a difficulty, not belonging to the evi- 
dence, but only to the history of Christianity. Even 
if it were possible to raise an adverse argument upon 
such ground, the force of it would be obviated, in 
the present case, by our finding that this very fact 
of the rejection of the Gospel by the Jews, and 
their subsequent " removal into all the kingdoms of 
the earth," and their continued preservation, as a 
monument of the divine displeasure, — formed a part 
of that very revelation, of which they were them- 
selves the depositories. 

But give the case up to the unbeliever u[)()ii any 


terms he pleases, it can never be made to assist his 
side of the argument. If he adduces the incredtility 
of the Jews, as a proof that the facts related in the 
Gospel did not really happen, or were not believed, 
— then, the sudden conversion of the heathen nations 
of the world becomes doubly perplexing. There will 
be no clue to the difficulty, in this case, except that 
of Bayle in his article " Abdera," in which he leads 
his readers to infer that all mankind, in the first 
century, were mad. This was falling, I think, from 
Scylla into Charybdis ; but it is the only alternative. 
I am persuaded that in the age when Christianity 
first appeared, it must have presented itself to many, 
as the most intelligible solution. 

It will hardly be expected that we should seriously 
refute such an hypothesis ; but if it were necessary 
to do so, the only course to follow, would be to 
examine the history of this period. Tlie documents 
for this purpose, which we have in our possession, 
being, with the exception of the Acts of the Apo- 
stles, not historical but controversial, contain none 
but very general facts; nevertheless, they will be 
found to afford sufficient light, to enable us to form 
some corresponding notion of the causes to which 
Christianity owed the rapidity of its success. Enough 
at least to refute, not only the hypothesis of Bayle, 
but every explanation that can be offered, if based 
upon the ordinary principles of human belief 

Every one is aware, that it was the progress of 
Christianity, which rooted out heathenism from the 


ancient world. And it would also seem to be com- 
monly supposed, that the effect was slowly produced, 
by the same sort of gradual process, with which 
erroneous opinions in legislation or philosophy are 
banished from the minds of men. Now although it 
is true, that the religion of the heathen nations of 
antiquity was not overthrown, in the same way as 
the Jewish law and worship, by a sudden political 
convulsion ; vet the rise of the Christian religion in 
the world, was an event ahnost as distinctly marked, 
as the downfal of the latter. For the first few years, 
indeed, its growth was slow, like " that of a tender 
plant in a dry ground," to use the expressive words 
of the prophet. But as soon as it had fixed its 
roots in the soil, it began to spread out its branches 
with a vigour and rapidity, which it is diflScult fully 
to explain, on any supposition we can frame ; — even 
assuming the truth of the facts, out of the belief of 
which it arose. 

Although there is abundant evidence in the New 
Testament, to shew, that there were many heathens 
among the earliest converts, yet it is plain that a 
large majority of the first disciples, in the days of 
the Apostles, must have been from the Jews ; or 
else from that numerous class, spoken of in the Acts, 
as Gentiles, but who had so far embraced Judaism, 
as to have joined with the Jews, not only in renounc- 
ing idolatry, but in worshipping the same God with 
themselves. If we look to the thirteenth chapter 
of the Acts, we shall see that the Gentiles arc 


there mentioned as being assembled in the same 
synagogue with the Jews at Antioch, in a way which 
marks it to have been a familiar occurrence. Cor- 
nelius belonged to this class, as well as Timothy and 
Titus ; also the eunuch mentioned in the eighth of 
the Acts ; to whom may be added the centurion 
spoken of by St. Luke, as loving the Jewish nation, 
and having built them a synagogue. 

But it is not necessary to dwell upon the proof of 
this. Any one who takes the trouble of examining 
the New Testament, and especially the historical parts 
of it, with a careful eye, will readily see, that under 
the various names of Worshippers or Devout Persons, 
or Greeks, or Strangers, or Gentiles, this class of per- 
sons, — by whatever denomination they ought to be 
distinguished, whether as proselytes of the gate, or 
by any other title, — must have been very numerous 
even in Jerusalem and Judea ; and in other parts of 
the world, there is reason to believe that they formed 
a still larger multitude. Not being circumcised, nor 
under an engagement to observe any part of the 
ceremonial law, it is probable that they were not 
looked upon as Jews, either by the heathens or by 
themselves. What proportion the number of such 
converts may have borne to the rest of the disciples, 
is not a matter of any importance. That the number 
was large, is plainly indicated in the Acts and 

For all the purposes of our ])resent inquiry, these 
persons, it is plain, may be numbered as Jews; be- 


cause they were able to understand and to appre- 
ciate all the evidence, afforded by the prophecies in 
favour of Christianity, as well as if they had been of 
the stock of Abraham. So far as they may be sup- 
})osed to have been exempt from many prejudices 
and unfounded pretensions, inherent in those who 
were of the circumcision, it is not to be doubted, but 
that their minds must have been much more open 
to receive the truths of the Gospel, than if they had 
been Jews by the privilege of their birth. The 
breaking down of the partition-wall between these 
last and themselves, which was the great offence of 
the Gospel in the eyes of the Jewish nation, must 
have been uo offence, but just the reverse, in their 
eyes. It was an interpretation of prophecy, much 
more likely to obtain their favourable regard, than 
the arrogant as well as improbable belief, which the 
Jews clung to, with such blind affection. 

Be the weight of these remarks, however, what it 
may, it is quite clear from the New Testament, that 
it was within the circle, formed by these two classes 
of persons, — namely, of Jew^s properly so called, and 
of the Gentile worshippers, as here described, — that 
the great body of the early converts was almost 
exclusively found ; and that this continued to be 
the case, up to the period to which the narrative of 
events in the New Testament extends. A very slight 
consideration of the arguments put forward by St. 
Paul in his Epistles will shew, that he was uniformly 
writing to persons, who not only believed, but un- 


derstood the Jewish Scriptures. The period I am 
now speaking of, reaches to the year 65, or perhaps 
a little later ; but it ended before the destruction of 

From this time, for a space of about thirty-five or 
forty years, we hear no more of Christianity, or of 
the Christians, from any contemporary authority. It 
is evident, from Tacitus and Suetonius, that their 
opinions had widely spread, and had attracted the 
notice and excited the fears of the government; but, 
except the persecutions in the reigns of Claudius and 
Nero, we learn no specific fact. About the year 
106 or 107, comes the letter from Pliny the younger 
to Trajan. At the time when this was written, it 
would seem to be plain, that the Christians must 
havebecome a large and increasing multitude of 
persons. And as there is no reason whatever for sup- 
posing that they had spread more numerously in 
Bithynia than elsewhere, we may safely infer from 
this document, that their doctrines had now reached 
the remotest parts of the Roman empire. Pliny 
informs the emperor, that the sect, in that province, 
included persons of all ages and conditions : — that 
the contagion had seized not only the cities, but the 
villages and open country ; adding, that there had 
been, for a long time, an intermission of all the 
heathen solemnities ; and that the sacrifices to the 
gods had almost ceased. " MulH cnivt omni.s aiatis, 
idriusijue searus etiam, vocimtar in pimculum ct rom- 
hwnfur. Nc<iu<' enim civitntis idutum, srd vivos cfimu 



et agros superstitionis istius contagio pervagata est. Qucb 
videtur sisti et corrigi posse. Certe satis constat, prope 
etiam desolata templa ccepisse celebrari, et sacra solem- 
nia, diu intermissa repeii ; passitnqtie venire victimas, 
quarum adJmc rarissimus emptor inveniebatur.'" In 
consequence of the strong measures adopted by him, 
a better state of things was beginning, he says, to 
arise ; but one, still surrounded with so many diffi- 
culties, that he writes to the emperor for advice. 

From the last-mentioned particulars, it is plain 
that the majority of the converts, here described, 
must have been heathen. In the absence of all 
counter testimony, we are entitled to take Pliny's 
account of the deserted condition, to which the re- 
ligion of the state had been brought in Bithynia, as 
a measure of the success, which had attended Christi- 
anity, in the other provinces of the empire, at this 
early date. In this view, the rapidity of its progress, as 
above described, however we may attempt to explain 
the case, is truly astonishing ; but, taken in connec- 
tion with those parts of the prophecies, in which the 
very state of things which Pliny relates, would seem 
to have been predicted, the fact, to those who were 
informed of those prophecies, may well have seemed 

That this opinion had thus early begun to pervade 
the public mind, may, I think, be safely inferred from 
a reference to the writings of the Fathers. They do 
not argue and discuss whether the prophecies had 
been fulfilled or not ; but they assume the point. It 


matters not which of them we take up, — we shall 
find, from Justin downwards, that the rapid success 
of Christianity in the world, is the crowning proof of 
its divine origin, in the view taken of the evidences, 
by every one of them. 

I have before had occasion to mention, generally, 
that it was the Old Testament upon which they 
rested their cause. But if we take up Justin, or 
Origen, or Tertullian, we shall not be long in ob- 
serving, that among the prophecies, those to which 
these early writers chiefly appeal, are the prophecies 
of Isaiah, in which he speaks of the impending dis- 
comfiture of idolatry in the world, and the approach 
of a kingdom, under which all mankind would be 
brought to a knowledge of the one supreme God. 
The manner in which they dwelt upon this argu- 
ment, shews that in their opinion this part of the 
prophecies had been incontrovertibly fulfilled. The 
fact itself, I just now observed, they appeal to, as 
being notorious ; and urge it as a conclusive proof, 
that the evidence, from which the belief in Christ's 
divine authority had arisen, must have been true. 

Whether the early Fathers reasoned rightly or 
not, is not the question. I am here merely stating 
what their reasoning was, and on what data it was 
built. There may be a difference of opinion about 
the former ; but there is no room for disputing the 
assertion, that even so early as the reign of Trajan, 
Christianity was in effect established. T do not 
mean that it was established bv hn\, or rccos-iiized 


by the state ; but it had taken its place in the 
world ; the ensigns of its coming greatness were 
fairly upraised in the sight of mankind. Already it 
had become a visible society, not confined to one 
spot, or city, or country, or language ; but diffused, in 
a greater or less proportion, through almost every 
nation upon earth. 

Accordingly, if we turn to the writings of Justin, 
who wrote about thirty years after the date of Pliny's 
letter, and lived in the generation which immediately 
succeeded that of the Apostles, we shall find that 
the conclusions I have drawn from this last docu- 
ment, as to the rapid diffusion of Christianity, are 
fully borne out by his testimony. " There is no race 
of mankind," says he to Trypho the Jew', " whether 
of Greeks or Barbarians, or of any other appellation, 
whether of those who wander in tribes, without fixed 
habitation, or tend their flocks in tents, (r) a^ua^o/S/wv, 

I) aoiKtov KoXov/Jiavoyv, jj £V (TKjjvoic Krrji'orpo^wv o'ikovv- 

T(Dv,) among whom prayers and thanksgivings are 
not offered up to the Creator of the universe, in the 
name of the crucified Jesus;" — a statement which 
he prefaces with an assertion, that at the time when 
he was writing, the Gospel was spread over a wider 
space than even the religion of the Jews. 

The next Christian writer of whom we have any 
considerable remains, is Irenseus. He was settled in 

' Sect. 117. 



Gaul, and wrote some twenty or thirty years later. 
Speaking of the unity of the Catholic faith, which 
" the Church," he says, " though disseminated 
throughout the world, diligently preserves ;" he goes 
on to remark, that " although there are in the world 
various languages, yet the authority of tradition is 
one and the same everywhere. And neither do the 
Churches, which are founded in Germany, believe 
differently or teach differently ; nor those which are 
in Spain, or in Gaul, or in the East, or in Egypt, or 
in Africa, nor those which are in the more inland 
parts of the worlds" 

Contemporary with Irenaeus, and writing very few 
years later, is Tertullian. In his book against the 
Jews, reminding them of the various prophecies of 
the Old Testament relating to the conversion of the 
Gentiles : — " This prediction," says he^ " you now see 
fulfilled in the successful preaching of the Gospel : 
* its sound has gone out into all lands^ and its voice unto 
tlie ends of the ic<yrld:' for in whom else have all the 
nations believed, except in Christ, who has now come ? 
In him have the Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, 
inhabitants of Rome, and Jews of Jerusalem, been 
brought to believe ; in him, the barbarous tribes of 
Africa, and the dispersed clans of Spain, and Gaul, 
and Britain ; — places inaccessible to the Romans, 
among the Sarmatians, and Daciaus, and Germans, 

' Lib. i. c. 10. * Adv. Jud. c. 7. 


and Scythians, provinces and islands of which we 
know not the names, and which we are unable to 
enumerate, — have been subdued by Christ." 

This and similar passages do not occur in a writing 
intended for Christians ; — who, perhaps would not be 
likely to question a statement which was favourable 
to their cause ; — but to Jews, upon whom mere decla- 
mation of this kind, if not founded in facts that were 
notorious, would be worse than thrown away. " All 
other kingdoms," he goes on to say, " as of Pharaoh, 
of Alexander, of the Asspians, even the empire of 
the Romans, is limited and defined ; but the kingdom 
of Christ, and his name, reaches everywhere; is 
believed everywhere ; reigns everywhere ; and is 
adored everywhere. He is King, and Judge, and God, 
and Lord, to all. — Christi regnum et nomen uhique 
porrigitur ; iihique creditur ; uhique regnat; uhique 
adoratur; — omnibus Rex, omnihus Judex, omnibus 
Deus et Dominus esty " We are only of yesterday," 
he writes in another place', " and already," he tells 
the Heathens, to Avhom his Apology is addressed, 
" we have filled every place which belongs to you ; 
your cities, your islands, your fortresses, your muni- 
cipal places of assembly, even your camps and palaces, 
your senate and forum ; — the temples of your gods 
alone are left to you. It is your own accusation," 
he tells them, — " obsessam vociferantur civitatem, in 
agris, in castellis, in insulis Chrutianos. All sexes, 

• Apol. c. 37. 


and ages, and conditions, even among the highest 
ranks, as they themselves," he writes, " are heard to 
complain, have enrolled themselves under this name : 
omnem sea^um, cBtatem, conditionem, eliam dignitatem 
transgredi ad hoc nomen, mcercntr 

Exactly to the same effect is the language of 
Origen, w^ho, writing a few years later than Tertullian, 
asserts that the Gospel had, in his day, subdued the 
whole of Greece, and the greater part of the rest of 

the world, Tratrrjc jilv EXXaSoc;, etti TrXeiov Se |3ap/3apou 

E/cpttTrjcTE. There are two other very strong and 
pointed passages from the same writer, quoted by 
Paley in his chapter on the Propagation of the 
Gospel, to which I would refer the reader, as also a 
passage from Clemens Alexandrinus, who w-as the 
contemporary of Tertullian, in which he says, that 
" the philosophers were only found in Greece, but the 
doctrine of Christ is spread throughout the world, in 
every nation, and village, and city, both of Greeks 
and Barbarians'." It is needless to adduce the testi- 
mony of later wTiters ; but it may be worth remark- 
ing, that, in the book De Morte Persecutorum^ 
commonly attributed to Lactantius, and which is in 
the list of his works, it is stated, that so early as the 
time of Nero, the Gospel had spread to the remotest 
corners of the earth : " ut jam nidlm esset terrarum 
angidus tarn remotus, quo non religio Dei peiietrasset." 
It appears then, from these extracts, that before 

' Strom, vi. 


the generation, in which Christ was born, had passed 
away, his religion had taken root, and was firmly 
established throughout the world. In the next gene- 
ration, neither the number of Christians, nor the 
extent to wdiich their religion was diffused, could any 
longer be estimated ; — and the prophecies of the Old 
Testament may be thenceforth considered, for all the 
purposes of argument, as having been completed. 

What then were the causes of this rapid and ex- 
traordinary success ? Were they human or divine, 
natural or providential, primary or secondary? — 
This is the question which I shall now proceed to 


The determination of the question, proposed at the 
end of the preceding chapter, is a point in which the 
Christian, as such, has no distinct concern. Whether 
Christianity be true or untrue, the causes of its rapid 
propagation in the world are deserving of inquiry. But 
a person who believes his Bible may, if he pleases, 
decline to interest himself about the means em- 
ployed by God, for spreading it in the world, pro- 
vided he can be sure, or believes himself to be sure, 
that it was planted by His hand. If it could be shewn, 


that God employed none but natural means for dif- 
fusing the knowledge of it among mankind, there 
would be no reason why the Christian should not 
acquiesce in such an explanation. Christianity pre- 
tends to a miraculous origin, but to nothing more. 
Its rapid rise and present position in the Morld are 
conformable with such pretensions. If no adequate 
causes can be assigned for its progress, during the first 
and second centuries, without supposing the con- 
tinued manifestation of a divine interposition, — that 
will create a difficulty, over and above the proofs to 
be found in the Bible, which a person who affirms its 
origin to have been human, will have to overcome. 
But his overcoming this difficulty or not overcoming 
it, will not in the least affect the evidence on which 
the belief of the Christian is built. To him, it is 
simply an historical inquiry ; a matter of mere 
learned curiosity. If the theological question be 
got rid of, the philosophical one will indeed remain ; 
but this last, does not touch the foundations, on which 
the proof of Christianity rests. As the subject, how- 
ever, is of grave importance in this last point of 
view only ; and as it materially affects the adverse 
side of the argument, on theological grounds, it is 
well deserving of consideration. 

The question, I would observe, is not as to the co- 
operation of secondary causes, but only as to their 
sufficiency. Whatever opinion we may entertain, as 
to the causes of the sudden diffusion of Christianity 
through the world, after the destruction of .Feriisa- 



lem, it would be absurd to deny the intervention 
of natural means : on the contrary, the co-opera- 
tion of such must be assumed. To reject this sup- 
position, would weaken rather than confirm the proof 
of its divine origin ; inasmuch, as their joint opera- 
tion would imply, that the Author of the Christian 
revelation was, at the same time, the Supreme Go- 
vernor of the world. If this religion was from God, 
it must have been certain from the beginning, that 
it would be communicated to mankind, at a time 
when circumstances would be favourable to its re- 
ception. Origen goes still further, and says, that a 
favourable state of things had been purposely pre- 
pared beforehand, by the Divine Providence. To 
this cause he ascribes the profound peace in which 
the world was found, at the time when Christ ap- 
peared, and the subjection of so many nations under 
one empire. Had mankind at that time been placed 
under the government of many and hostile rulers, it 
would have been difficult, says he, for the Apostles 
to have executed the command which bade them 
to " go and teach all nations." He afterwards pro- 
ceeds to show this, by exemplifying the impediments 
they would have met with, had they been compelled 
to preach during the triumvirate, or at almost any 
period of the world before that, in which they re- 
ceived their commission. 

On a similar principle of reasoning, Clemens of 
Alexandria ascribes the Grecian philosophy to God. 
"In the same manner," says he, "as the Old Testa- 


ment was a preparation, or irpoTrai^da, for the Jews ; 
so also were the writings of Socrates and Plato, and 
their followers, for the Gentiles." I shall not stop 
to discuss this opinion of his, which would require 
many qualifications before it could be safely received. 
My rason for adverting- to it is merely to show, that 
the early Christians, who certainly did not ascribe 
the origin of the Gospel to secondary causes, thought 
that the supposition of their co-operation in its after 
success, was quite consistent with a belief in its 
divine authority. The question, therefore, is not 
whether secondary causes should be excluded from 
our hyj^othesis, when endeavouring to account for 
the rapid propagation of Christianity in the world ; 
but whether its success can be accounted for, on the 
supposition of secondary causes alone ? 

As the existence of Christianity in the world is a 
matter of fact not to be gainsaid, I take for granted, 
as a thing of course, that those who assert its human 
origin, must suppose that none but human means had 
any part, direct or indirect, in its propagation ; — or 
if causes, over which human agents can exercise no 
control, contributed to its success, that this effect 
was purely accidental. We must assume these causes 
not to have been foreseen, or divinely prepared be- 
forehand ; for if they were, in that case, although the 
effect itself may have followed in the natural se- 
quence of events, yet would it be nevertheless mira- 
culous, for all the purposes of the present inquiry. It is 
this last which \ consider as the true way of oxplain- 


ing the fact. But, before adducing my reasons for so 
thinking, it will be proper to inquire first, whether any 
hypothesis to account for it, simply and exclusively 
by means of natural causes, has ever been proposed ; 
and if so, what those causes are stated to have been. 

It would perhaps be going too far to say in un- 
qualified terms, that no one is at liberty to doubt 
the divine origin of Christianity, except he is pre- 
pared to explain, on other principles, the causes of 
its success. Nevertheless, it is certainly a i)resump- 
tive argument in favour of its divine origin, that no 
other specific explanation has ever been produced. 
I have made this assertion broadly, but I think not 
too broadly ; because, although the causes which 
Gibbon has assigned \ to account for the rapid pro- 
pagation of the Gospel in the second and third cen- 
turies, may seem to afford an exception to my 
remark, yet they are not so really ; inasmuch as if 
we overlook the spirit in which his statements are 
made, there is not in any one of them a single fact, 
not even a single conjecture, at which the most 
devout believer need take alarm. 

The causes, indeed, which Gibbon suggests, are all 
of them, as stated by him, secondary causes. But 
then, it is to be observed, he does not attempt to 
explain the first rise of Christianity in the world, but 
only to account for its after progress. And so far are 
the causes which he assigns, from excluding the sup- 

' Ch. XV. 


position of its miraculous origin, that a general be- 
lief of this truth, on the part of mankind, is evi- 
dently a constituent part of his hypothesis ; and, in 
fact, must be assumed, in order to explain his expla- 
nation. In short, the causes which he states, instead 
of accounting for the rise of this belief, are among 
the effects which had flowed from it. 

This will, I think, be evident at a glance. They 
are, 1 st. The zeal of the early Christians ; 2nd, The 
doctrine of the immortality of the soul; together with 
their belief in the millennium and a future judg- 
ment ; 3rd, The pretension to miraculous gifts ; 4th, 
The pure morals of the first Christians ; 5th, Their 
Church discipline. 

Now, the readers of Gibbon may agree with him 
in thinking, that all these were causes of the success 
of Christianity ; and it is probable, that others of a 
similar kind might easily be named, which conspired, 
in various degrees, to recommend the religion of 
Christ, to the favourable reception of mankind. If 
the early Christians had been without zeal ; if the 
doctrines which they preached had been subversive 
of morality ; if their lives had been impure ; if they 
had been under no rules of government ; if they had 
disclaimed any belief in miracles : — the success of 
Christianity in the world, upon this supposition, would 
have been something indeed astonishing ! But surely, 
no one was ever so wild as to think, that because in 
the case of the Gospel, the contrary of this, in every 
instance was the fact, it was therefore not from God. 


As a general argument, such an opinion would be too 
absurd to deserve a serious refutation. And if we 
examine severally the particular propositions, on 
which Gibbon based his disbelief of the divine autho- 
rity of revelation, (for such it is to be presumed was 
his meaning in the celebrated chapter to which I 
am now referring,) they will not be found much 
more worthy of attention. 

And first, for the inflexible and intolerant zeal 
of the Christians, and the advantage which they 
derived, from the mild and tolerant genius of Poly- 
theism. When Gibbon penned this sentence, he must 
surely have forgotten the persecutions of Claudius 
and Nero, and Diocletian ; as also the letter from 
Pliny, which was alluded to in the last chapter, and 
for which he elsewhere endeavours to apologize. But 
admitting his statement to be correct ; — to say that 
the reason of the success of the first disciples, was 
their having been allowed to preach their doctrines, 
— though the fact had been ever so true, — would 
afford no argument to show, that the doctrines which 
they taught were not the word of God. As to the 
inflexible and intolerant zeal which he ascribes to 
them, this was the natural consequence of their 
belief in the divine authority of their faith ; and 
if it operated favourably upon the opinions of man- 
kind, it can only have been, because it was re- 
garded as a clear proof of sincerity, on the part of 
the early Christians. 

The next cause is the doctrine of the immortality 


of the soul, and of a future state of rewards and 
punishments ; " improved," as he says it was, " by 
every additional circumstance which could give 
weight and efficacy to that important truth." Now 
this truth, no doubt, is part and parcel of the Gospel; 
but it was also part and parcel of the doctrine of 
Socrates and Plato. The question therefore is, how 
did it happen, that a truth which all the wisdom of 
Socrates, and all the eloquence of Plato, had failed 
to demonstrate to the satisfaction of mankind, was 
received by them so much more favourably, on the 
simple authority of a few poor fishermen and me- 
chanics ? This was the point of Gibbon's argument ; 
but it is passed over by him in silence. 

The third cause is, the pretension of the first 
Christians to miraculous gifts. But supposing the mi- 
racles ascribed to Christ to have been really wrought, 
and that the power of working them was extended 
to the Apostles, — surely it need not make much im- 
pression upon the mind of any man, who knows what 
human nature is, to be told that miracle-mongers 
continued to infest the Church, long after all miracu- 
lous gifts had really been withdrawn. Such an effect 
was the natural consc(]uence of a belief in the mira- 
cles related of Christ and his Apostles. All it proves 
is, that the minds of men were excited ; and as has 
happened in other cases, that designing men took 
advantage of the fact : ^* Prodigia eo anno mtdta nun- 
ciata sunt" says Livy, speaking of the second Punic 
war, " (ju^ f/ur> magis eredebant aimplicvs ac religiosi 


homines, eo etiam plura nuntiahanturr I can only say, 
as for myself, that I do not believe in the continu- 
ance of miraculous powers in the Church, from the 
period when Jerusalem was destroyed. General 
assertions there are, in allegation of miraculous gifts, 
more than enough ; but it is observable, that none 
of the Fathers speak of such gifts, as possessed by 
themselves, — however credulous they may seem in 
the instance of others. It might be questioned, 
whether there is any specific miracle upon record, 
from the time when Jerusalem was destroyed to the 
present, for which such evidence could be produced 
as would satisfy a court of justice, even in the proof 
of any ordinary fact. The belief in lying wonders, 
though naturally and reasonably to be accounted for, 
was the opprobrium of the early Church ; but instead 
of reckoning this belief, as Gibbon does, among the 
causes of the success of Christianity, my persuasion 
is, that on the contrary it was among the impedi- 
ments which it had to overcome : just as in the pre- 
sent day, the similar pretensions of the Church of 
Rome, are the causes of much of the infidelity which 
is now in the world. 

In the earlier ages of the Church, such miracles as 
we read of, in ecclesiastical writers, even if they had 
been true, would not have advanced the cause of 
Christianity ; for there were none, either in or out of 
the Church, who reasoned upon this evidence, as we 
do. Even the vulgar in those days, looked upon 
them simply as the effects of magical arts, or other- 


wise of spiritual agency, good or bad ; and we cannot 
doubt, that wise and learned men, instead of being 
attracted by such arguments, must have been often 
kept aM'ay. 

The fourth and fifth causes assigned by Gibbon, 
are " the pure and austere morals of the early 
Christians," and " the union which prevailed among 
them; together with the discipline established in 
their churches." These may be reckoned among 
the causes of the success of Christianity, no doubt ; 
but it is only in the same sense, in which the 
character of Christ might be so reckoned, or the 
wisdom which he displayed, or the pure morality 
which he enjoined ; and in this view, the very truth 
itself of the Gospel may also be so considered. But 
then comes the difficulty : — If zeal in the cause of 
Christ, if virtue and pure morality among his fol- 
lowers, and other qualifications of that kind, be 
sufficient to account for the rapid progress made by 
his religion, at the time when it was first preached 
— why, when these same qualities are exhibited 
amonsf the heathen, do not the same effi'cts follow, 
in the present day ? I need not say that we find 
no answer to this question in the pages of Gibbon. 
And yet this is the point upon wliich the whole in- 
quiry turns ; it exactly enunciates the problem 
which Gibbon passes over, but which, if the sub- 
ject was to be inquired into, he was required to 

Tlie (liftirulties, which all rtn^eiit missionaries have 


encountered, in prosecuting their evangelical labours 
among the more barbarous nations of the world, are 
well known ; and their want of success, has often 
been the subject of surprise as well as of regret. The 
doctrines which they preach are the same as in the 
time of Justin or Tertullian : there are the same 
promises, the same threatenings, the same precepts, 
the same rites, the same church discipline. And if 
the pretence to miracles be sufficient, even this has 
not been wanting, — on the part, at least, of one large 
class of modern missionaries. On the other hand, 
if credulity, and superstition, and ignorance, facili- 
tated the success of the Gospel, at its first appear- 
ance, — these are permanent causes ; and where they 
exist, would, in given circumstances, shew forth the 
same effects at all times. In all the points, there- 
fore, where a difference is to be traced, it would seem 
to be in favour of the present age of the world. 
The authority of power, and of learning, and of 
wealth, and of all extraneous influences, including 
an experience of the beneficial tendency of Chris- 
tianity ; — all these elements of success have now 
changed sides, and are ranged in support of those 
doctrines to which they were originally opposed. 

Looking then to the comparative results, it is 
plain, upon the very face of the case, that some cause 
or causes must have been at work, during the period 
to which the remarks of Gibbon refer, which are not 
in operation now ; nor ever have been, so far as we 
can judge, except at that particular epoch when 


the Gospel was first preached. The question is 
not, whether those causes were miraculous or not 
miraculous ; nor whether mankind were induced 
to embrace Christianity upon good or bad reasons : 
but simply, what the causes or reasons were, by 
which an effect so surprising in itself, and so im- 
portant in its consequences, was in so short a space 
of time, accomplished. 

Now if we are willing to abide by the testimony 
of those who were witnesses of the effect, tlie answer 
is ready at hand. The authors of the New Testa- 
ment rest their proofs, as was before shewn, almost 
exclusively, upon the evidence of certain supposed 
prophecies. The early Fathers of the Church, with 
one voice, ascribe their own conversion to this same 
argument. Whether thev are relatin"^ the rounds of 
their own belief, or pressing their opinions upon the 
minds of others, the testimony to which they appeal, 
in proof of the divine authority of what they teach, 
is always the Old Testament. I have before had 
occasion to remark what I am here stating, and I 
must refer to the quotations which I then produced. 
I am not now saying whether the Fathers reasoned 
riohtly or not ; but am merely asserting an historical 
fact, which is noticed by Gibbon himself, and which 
no one who is conversant with the writings in ques- 
tion, will be likely to dispute. 

But supj)osing we assume this fact, as one wliich 
has before been })roved : yet it does not follow by 
necessary consequence that it will explain the phe- 


iiomeiia. If we suppose the Old Testament to have 
been written under divine inspiration, or — which, for 
all the purposes of the present argument, will come to 
the same thing, — that such an opinion was commonly 
entertained, at the time when Christianity was first 
established in the world : — this would be sufficient, 
it may perhaps be thought, to account for the con- 
version of individuals. It would explain why Justin 
became a Christian, or why the inhabitants of 
some particular city or country, to whom the know- 
ledge of the Old Testament had been communi- 
cated, should have embraced the Gospel. But it 
would seem quite inadequate to account for its 
early and simultaneous propagation, among so many 
nations, to whom the name of a promised Messiah 
was unknown. Those parts of the world, it may be 
said, stood in the same relation to the Apostles, and 
first teachers of Christianity, as the people of India 
and China stand in, at this time, to those who now 
attempt their conversion : — why then is it, that the 
self-same prophecies, which were so powerful among 
the heathen, in the first and second centuries, pro- 
duce comparatively no result worth mentioning, in 
the present day ? 

The answer to this question, is not to be obtained 
from history ; because we have few documents for 
our guidance, belonging to this period ; and those 
which we possess, touch but slightly upon the facts 
of the case. But if we keep our eye only upon the 
speculative difficulty, which the question involves, 

A a 


the difference in the results here pointed out, will 
easily be explained, by the change which time has 
made in the circumstances of the case. 

The objection, now under consideration, relates 
only to the heathen nations of the world, whom we 
suppose to have been ignorant of the Old Testament. 
Had the revelation of Christianity been confined to the 
people of Jerusalem or Judea, the objection assumes 
that their conversion would have come within the 
asserted explanation. These last knew beforehand 
the existence of the several prophecies. They were 
looking forward to the fulfilment of them ; and at 
the time when Christ appeared, were actually ex- 
pecting the arrival of a divine messenger. The 
other nations of the world, are assumed to have 
been unprepared for any such event. But if they 
also had known of these prophecies, and had been 
in a state of similar suspense, the same explanation 
would apply equally to both. It is then upon the 
supposed antecedent expectation in the one case, and 
the supposed antecedent ignorance in the other, that 
the difference between the two, in relation to the 
present question, plainly turns ; and not uj^on any 
points of circumstantial belief 

If, then, for the sake of argument, we assume 
the existence of this antecedent knowledge on the 
part of the Gentile nations, at and before the time 
of Christ's appearing, — and we shall be in possession 
of an hypothesis which, if true, would 'account for 
the ready recej^tion which Christianity met with, in 


the ancient lieathen world. And as it is quite 
certain that the heathen world, in the present day, 
is without this preparation, the obstacles which the 
Gospel now encounters in the hands of modern mis- 
sionaries, need cause no difficulty. But this will be 
better seen by the help of an example. 

To take then the case just now adverted to, of 
China and Hindostan ; or of any other countries, the 
inhabitants of which, like the heathen of old, are a 
refined and civilized people, on points not relat- 
ing to religion. It is, I think, quite plain, that 
upon their minds the argument from prophecy, as it 
now stands, must be for every practical purpose, alto- 
gether without effect. The premises on which the 
reasoning depends, are not facts falling under the 
notice of mankind, but matters of historical proof. 
Who was Moses, and Isaiah, and Daniel? When 
did they write ? What is the evidence for the au- 
thenticity of the books in which their predictions 
are recorded? and in what way can it be demon- 
strated that those predictions came to pass ? — These 
and many like points are all presupposed in the 
proof of the argument from prophecy. Without 
this knowledge, it possesses no kind of force what- 
ever; but even with it, we can only explain the 
conclusion to the understanding, often without 
awakening any real and active belief. It is easy to 
demonstrate the proofs of the Deluge, as an historical 
truth, but very difllicult to represent to our omii 
minds, or convey to the minds of others, an impres- 

A a '2 


sion of what those who witnessed it, experienced. 
Just so it is in the argument from prophecy: the 
effect produced by it upon the minds of those for 
whose use it was primarily intended, cannot be 
measured by the mere logical weight of the evidence, 
as apprehended by persons living in the })resent day. 
It is the preceding expectation, which gives this 
evidence its peculiar character. But on a supposi- 
tion, that the data are to be learnedly explained and 
demonstrated, the argument becomes a mere dry 
theorem, of little or no value in a matter of prac- 
tical belief, when the imagination of mankind must 
be appealed to, as well as their understanding. Or 
if any considerable result is to be obtained by this 
means, it can only be in individual instances. No 
collective impression can be produced in this way 
upon the opinions of any large masses of mankind. 

It may safely be asserted, even of the wisest, 
that speculative truths do not much influence the 
conduct ; for it is not upon them, that men build 
their hopes and fears, or regulate their feelings. 
In all that concerns the active belief of mankind, 
at least as much depends upon the circumstances, 
under which the truth is presented to their imagi- 
nation and feelings, as upon the abstract weight of 
the proofs adduced in its support. This is true as a 
general remark ; but T think it especially so, in the 
particular case immediately under our present consi- 
deration. And to be convinced of this, we have only 
to take the same instance as before, and view the 


case of the Chinese or Hindoos, under the different 
suppositions of their actual circumstances and that 
of an antecedent preparation. 

Suppose, then, that in the Vedas and other sacred 
writings of the Brahmins and Buddhists, which are 
spread all over the East, and about the antiquity of 
which, there can be no more doubt than about that 
of the Jewish Scriptures, — tliere were found a num- 
ber of distinct and clearly understood predictions, 
in which the rise of the British dominion of India 
had been plainly foretold. Suppose further, that in 
the same books, in which this prediction was con- 
tained, others also were to be found, intimating, that 
after a given epoch — the exact period of which was 
precisely defined — the present idolatrous worship, 
now prevailing in those parts of the world, would 
be brought to an end ; and its votaries be led, of 
their own free choice, to embrace the religion of 
their conquerors. As the signal of this great revo- 
lution, imagine it to have been predicted that the 
temple of Juggernaut should suddenly, and in some 
miraculous manner, be overturned and utterly de- 
stroyed, and the whole race of Brahmins be violently 
driven from their country, and dispersed among the 
surrounding nations. To these, let other circum- 
stances be added, if necessary, so as to remove all 
ambiguity as to the sense of the prophecies, before 
they were fulfilled, and all doubt, as to their divine 
authority, afterwards. We have only to suppose 


further, that the knowledge of the predictions was 
spread throughout all the surrounding countries ; — 
that there was hardly a city of any note, in which 
they were not talked of and discussed by indivi- 
duals, and more or less believed ; — and we shall 
have a case nearly parallel to what would have been 
the position of the heathen nations of antiquity, if 
they had been informed of the prophecies contained 
in the Old Testament. 

Suppose now the " times " to have been calculated 
by all the more learned of the Hindoos; and the 
present to be the generation in which both they and 
the people of the East were looking for their fulfil- 
ment. If then, at the moment when they were 
reasoning, and disputing, and wondering about the 
event ; — the foreshown signal should be given, and 
the doubts of some, and the expectation of others, 
and the hopes or fears of all, be suddenly realized ; — 
the question is, how would this hypothesis affect the 
argument, as between the worshippers of Christ and 
those of Vishnu ? Would our subjects in the East 
still turn a deaf ear to their conquerors, when we 
spoke to them of the religion of the Gospel? or 
would the other nations of the earth, who symbolized 
with them in the essentials of their various supersti- 
tions, continue to be as inaccessible to all argument 
and persuasion, as they have hitherto been found? 
Every one must judge the question for himself; but 
to my mind it does not seem to admit of controversy. 


A man may say indeed, that he would not believe the 
Gospel even if presented, under such circumstances, 
to his acceptance. No doubt many so thought at 
the time when it was first preached. But that is not 
the point in question. We are not now considering 
in what way a particular individual might reason; 
nor even what would be the true conclusion ; — but 
only what would be the way, upon the common 
principles of human nature, in which the world in 
general would reason, under the circumstances here 
supposed? If we confine the question to what 
would be the probable effect upon the propagation 
of Christianity, the answer cannot be doubted. 

In the statement of the case here proposed, it 
will be seen that the hypothesis has not been over- 
charged. The circumstances under which Christ 
appeared, were very similar to those which I have 
supposed; and the miraculousness of the signs, by 
which the overthrow of the Jewish ritual, as well as 
that of the heathen nations, was announced, even 
more extraordinary. For the temple of Jerusalem 
was a far more conspicuous object, in the eyes of 
mankind, than is the temple of Juggernaut in the 
eyes of the Eastern nations. The overthrow of the 
Jewish state, and the total dispersion of nearly all the 
inhabitants of Judea, was in every respect a far more 
remarkable fact, than the banishment of the Brah- 
mins would be ; — as the death, and resurrection, and 
ascension of Christ, must have made a much deeper 


impression upon men's minds, when there were 
thousands of persons alive, whose fathers had 
witnessed these events, than they can now be 
supposed to make, when simply asserted as historical 

It is further evident that in the case which I have 
here been supposing, the effect, whatever it was, would 
not be slow and gradual, but rapid, and sudden, and 
simultaneous ; this is part of the hypothesis. A belief, 
derived from the fulfilment of prophecy, would pro- 
pagate itself in a very different manner, from one 
deduced by reasoning. It would not spread from 
individual to individual, one by one, but would rise 
up at once, in every place to which a knowledge of 
the prophecy had extended. Now, the sudden and 
unexplained appearance of Christianity at one and 
the same time, in places the most distant to each 
other, both within and without the limits of the 
Roman empire, is the particular point which every 
writer, who has alluded to the fact at all, especially 
dwells upon. Justin, and Irenaeus, and TertuUian, 
and Clemens, and Origen, all concur in this obser- 
vation. They do not describe the multitude of 
the Christians: — that which appears chiefly to have 
affected their imagination, was their wonderful diffu- 
sion through so many countries ; and that, not only 
in the principal cities, but, as they all affirm, even in 
the fields and villages. " There is no race of man- 
kind, whether wandering in tribes or feeding their 


flocks in tents," says Justin, " among whom prayers 
and thanskgiving- are not offered to the Creator of 
the world, in the name of the crucified Jesus." " In 
acjris, in castellis, in insulis Christianas ; ubique por- 
rigitu7\ ubique creditur, ubique regnat^'' says Tertul- 
lian. " The doctrine of Christ," says Clemens, " is 
spread throughout the world, in every nation, village, 
and city, both of Greeks and Barbarians." 

Now, if we were at liberty to assume the fact, that 
a knowledge of the Jewish prophecies was spread 
abroad, among all the heathen nations of the world, 
at the time when Christ was born, in the same 
manner as was just now supposed, in the case above 
imagined, the phenomenon here spoken of would be 
explained. Proceed we then to examine whether 
there is any authority in history for believing such a 
supposition to be true. Some cause or causes, ap- 
pealing not to the understanding of mankind, but 
strongly affecting their imagination, must necessarily 
have been in operation : — the question is, was it the 
supposed fulfilment of foreknown prophecies ? 


At the beginning of Bishop Chandler's " Defence of 
Christianity, from the prophecies of the Old Testa- 
ment," is a dissertation on the expectation generally 


prevailing, in the age when Jesus Christ appeared, 
of some great change in human affairs, or of some 
extraordinary person then about to be produced, 
to whom the future dominion of the world would 
be committed. I know not that any thing need 
be added, nor that any thing material can be 
added, to the proofs which the Bishop has brought 
together in confirmation of this proposition. Never- 
theless, having already had occasion more than once 
to allude to the fact itself, I shall now produce some 
of the authorities by which the statement may be 
directly defended. Though they are strong, yet the 
indirect argument, to be drawn from the history of 
the Jewish nation, at this period, as will afterwards 
be shewn, is still stronger. 

The earliest allusion which we find to the fact 
here supposed, is in Cicero ' ; who relates, that, on 
occasion of the Parthian war, a motion had been made 
in the Senate, to confer thetitle of king upon Caesar, 
in deference to a prophecy which was produced, 
(and which is mentioned also by Suetonius-,) that the 
Parthians could be overcome only by a king; and 
that the safety of Rome must be sought under that 
form of government. This prophecy must have 
attracted considerable attention at the time ; for the 
belief in it is said by Sallust to have been among 
the motives of Lentulus for lending himself to Cati- 
line's conspiracy. So firmly indeed was this persua- 

• Dc Div. ii. c. 54. ' In Julio, c. 7f). 


sion rooted in the minds of men, that Suetonius' 
states, on the authority of an early historian, whose 
name he gives, that the Senate about this time had 
resolved, that every child born in a stated year, (the 
same as that in which Augustus was born,) should 
be put to death ; the assigned cause being an 
ancient prophecy, " that nature was then in labour 
to bring forth a king, who should reign over the 
Roman people ;" and the reason is given by the 
historian, why this decree did not pass into a law. 
Whether such a decree was ever really projected or 
not, is a point of no importance. The historian 
whose words Suetonius quotes, and the credit given 
to the fact itself by the latter, must be received 
as a sufficient proof, that an expectation prevailed 
among the people of Rome, of the api)earance of 
some miraculous person, who was not to come into 
the world as other men, nor to be a mere ordinary 

This last conclusion is implied in the words by 
which Suetonius describes his generation. But the 
best commentary upon them will be found, in a 
passage of the sixth book of Virgil, in which he 
applies the prophecy to Augustus, and speaks of it 
as well known — 

" Hie vir, hie est, tibi quem promitti scepius audis, 
Augustus Caesar, Divi genus : aurea condet 
Scecula qui rursus Latio, regnata per arva 
Saturno quondam ; super et Garamantas et Indos 

' In Oct. c. Do. 


Proferet imperiuin : jacet extra sidera tellus, 

Extra anni solisque vias, ubi coelifer Atlas 

Axem humero torquet stellis ardentibus aptum. 

Hujus in adventum jam nunc et Caspia regno 

Responsis horrent divum, et Mceotia tellus, 

Et septemgemini turhant trepida ostia Nili." — v. 791. 

In his fourth Eclogue, Virgil reverts to the subject, 
in words which are, I believe, admitted on all sides 
to have been borrowed from Isaiah ; but which, at 
all events, distinctly prove what I am now endea- 
vouring to shew ; — That at the time when he wrote, 
an opinion prevailed, and was known to his readers, 
that some new era was about to arise, in which 
all wars would cease throughout the world, and all 
nations be at peace — in which the lion would no 
longer vex the folds ; when the serpent would be 
slain, and no poisonous herbs spring forth : — all which 
blessings he promises on the faith of well-known 
prophecies. Prophecies of a similar import are 
stated by Suetonius and Tacitus, to have prevailed 
all over the East, at the time preceding the Jewish 
war; and are distinctly asserted both by them and 
Josephus, to have been the exciting cause of the 
fatal rebellion, which ended in the destruction of 
the nation. 

But there is evidence which would lead us to 
believe, that the popular excitement which ended 
so fatally for the Jews, had been of long stand- 
ing in the world, and was not confined to Judea. 
Suetonius tells us that one of the first acts of 


Augustus, upou assuming supreme authority in the 
empire, (and when, of course, he must have been 
anxious to calm the angry passions which had been 
so greatly excited,) was to collect together, from 
every quarter, the various prophecies by which the 
minds of the people were agitated. Of these, he 
publicly committed two thousand volumes to the 
flames ; reserving only a selection from some, which 
bore the name of the Sibyls ; and which last, he 
ordered to be preserved with care, in a temple built 
by him in his own palace, for that express purpose. 
In accordance with this account of Suetonius, we 
learn from Tacitus, that by a decree of Augustus, no 
private persons were allowed to have any such collec- 
tion of prophecies in their possession : a law which 
continued in force under the reign of Tiberius. 

In all questions where great and important in- 
terests are concerned, the mind is naturally and 
properly jealous of admitting premises, which are not 
demonstrably certain ; and this is especially the case 
in a matter, where the conclusions which we may 
draw, affect the foundations of our belief or disbelief 
of revelation. But for this, I do not think that a doubt 
would be entertained, as to the true origin of the 
popular persuasion above adverted to : — of the fact 
of its existence, there cannot be a doubt. " It was 
an ancient and constant opinion," says Suetonius, 
" and founded upon a knowledge of some divine 
decree, that a person or persons would appear in 
Judea, who should obtain the government of the 


world*." "It was the persuasion of most persons," 
says Tacitus ^ " that the ancient books of the 
priests contained passages, which implied that the 
East would become powerful, and that those would 
arise in Judea, who should obtain the empire of the 
world." Here we see, that the expectation to which 
Josephus refers ^ and to which he ascribes the re- 
bellion of the Jews, — of some person arising among 
them who would govern the world, aTro rfjc x^pwc 
TIC aitTwv ap^H rfjc oIkoujuevj]? : is plainly one and the 
same with that expectation, which Suetonius says 
had long prevailed all over the East, and Tacitus 
speaks of, as an opinion commonly entertained. 
Now, as there can be no doubt, as to the source 
from whence the Jewish belief arose, it does not 
seem to me that there is room for a second opinion, 
as to the true origin of the heathen. 

It is tme, that Virgil does not refer to the Jewish 
Scriptures, nor to the ancient books of the priests, 
as his authority for predicting that new and golden 
age, which he describes as being about to arise ; but 
to the Cumsean Sibyl. And, therefore, it may be 
asked, by what right do we assume that he borrowed 
from Isaiah, seeing that Isaiah himself may have 
drawn from the same source. The answer is, that 
we have the writings of Isaiah in our hands, and are 
able to judge of their contents. Moreover, we are 
sure that they were composed many hundred years 

' Vespas. c. iv. ■ Hist. v. 13. ' Do lUllo, vi, 5. 


before the time when Virgil lived. But we know 
nothing of the books of the Ciimsean Sibyl, except 
what we learn from the passages he has quoted ; 
from which passage it is almost a matter of demon- 
stration, that either the Cuma^an Sibyl borrowed 
from Isaiah and the other Jewish Scriptures, or that 
these last were borrowed from the Cumsean or other 
Sibylline oracles. In which last case the objection 
will amount only to this ; that the prophecies on 
which the expectations, both of the Jews and heathens, 
at the time of Christ's coming, were built, had been 
delivered to mankind, in an age anterior to that 
which is now supposed. This supposition will not 
render the fact itself less certain, that the belief in 
Christianity was built upon an antecedent expectation. 
Nor will it aifect the reasons for thinking, that the 
prophecies on which that expectation was founded, 
must have been made known to mankind in some 
manner, which we cannot explain by any causes, 
which our experience of the powers of human reason 
can suggest. Such an opinion, if true, would darken 
our knowledge of the exact premises, from which 
the reasoning of mankind had been drawn ; but it 
would not alter the principle on which their rea- 
soning must have been built, nor introduce any 
change in the conclusion. 

I shall not prosecute this part of the argument, 
because I do not apprehend, that the question which 
has been supposed, is likely to be raised; or, at least, 
after what has been said, to be persisted in. But as 


our belief in historical facts, especially if there be 
anything in them which is extraordinary and out of 
the common way, is always more lively and complete, 
when we are able to explain the process by which 
they came to pass and say how they happened, — 
it will be worth while to examine a question, (ver}'^ 
nearly connected with the history of Christianity, 
though touching but slightly on the evidence for 
its truth,) which can hardly fail to occur to our 
minds, when inquiring into the knowledge possessed 
by the heathens of the Jewish prophecies ; and that 
is, — How are we to account for this knowledge on 
their part ? 

If we examine the prophetical parts of the Old 
Testament, we shall observe that by far the largest 
portion is taken up with matter, which relates solely 
to Judea. But the books of Isaiah and Daniel 
offer an exception to this remark. Only a small 
proportion of the contents of these, is occupied with 
the Jews or their affairs. The leading subject is the 
calling of the Gentiles and the future trium})hs of 
the Church ; or else, the particular judgments of God, 
against the several nations, of whom the Gentile 
world was composed. It is the destruction of Tyre 
and Babylon, — the desolation of Moab, and Edoni, 
and Amnion, — the degradation of Egypt, — the rise of 
the several empires of the world and their respective 
terminations, which fill all those parts of the prophe- 
cies of Isaiah and Daniel, tliat do not relate to tlie 
Gospel ; vvliicli hist, we may remark, was a subject, 


not concerning any one people in particular, but ex- 
pressly referring to all nations of mankind. These 
last prophecies were delivered to the world, it is 
true, by the mouth of persons who were Jews ; yet, 
as it was the heathen nations, as the event has shown, 
who were the real objects of the divine communi- 
cation, rather than their own countrymen, it is to 
the former that we must consider these prophecies 
as having been properly addressed. 

With respect to the events themselves, which 
form the subject of the greater part of the writings 
of these two prophets, — most of them, it Avill be 
observed, (with the exception of some few particular 
predictions, the fulfilment of which has been gradual 
and is still going on,) received their completion 
before the coming of Christ. Apparently, therefore, 
they have nothing to do with the proof of Chris- 
tianity ; or at least only by some distant and cir- 
cuitous process of reasoning. The evidence by which 
we show that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, is quite 
unconnected with the destruction of Babylon, or the 
wars of Alexander, and the subsequent division of 
his conquests among his chief captains. Under 
these circumstances, it is a natural question to ask : 
— What end did these particular prophecies serve? 
It is difficult to believe that they were from God, 
and not suppose that they must have had an ade- 
quate object of some kind. This nuist be presumed, 
even if the purpose of them should remain hidden 
from our understanding. But certainly a satisfactory 

lib ' 


answer to the question I have asked, will remove a 
difficulty which presses with some weight upon the 
mind, while examining this part of the Old Testa- 

Now whatever the end of these predictions was, 
it must be referred to some purpose which con- 
cerned, not the direct, but the preparatory evidences 
of Christianity ; seeing that otherwise, they would 
not have related to events, which happened many 
years before Christ came into the world, but to per- 
sons or things, belonging to the age, in or about 
which he appeared. But if the antecedent expecta- 
tion of a Messiah among the heathen nations of the 
world, was as important to the reception of Chris- 
tianity, as the remarks contained in the last chapter 
would seem to indicate, a reason will at once sug- 
gest itself to our minds, why these prophecies should 
have been inserted in the Old Testament. Assuming 
that they were written at the time asserted by the 
Jews, (and which, except for their miraculous pre- 
tensions, no one would ever have called in question,) 
it is easy to see, how largely a knowledge of them 
would have conduced to that widely-spread and 
inveterate opinion, which every historian of the 
events relating to this period has spoken of, in terms 
either more or less direct ; and without the supposi- 
tion of which, the success of Christianity, (unless we 
ascribe it to the effect of an immediate miracle upon 
the understandings of mankind in that age,) is capable 
of no explanation, M'hicli we are able to assign. 


But with the testimony of history for our support, 
these prophecies guide our conjectures to an easy 
solution of the case. " Here," might the Jews say to 
the Gentiles with whom they conversed, " here is a 
book, whose antiquity you acknowledge, or may 
readily ascertain. In it we find a declaration, that 
he, of whom all the prophets of our nation have for 
ages spoken, is, in the fulness of God's appointed 
time, to make his appearance in the world. And the 
generation is now approaching, or is actually alive, in 
which this prophecy is to be fulfilled. Do you accuse 
us of enthusiasm or superstition, or smile at the 
earnest and full reliance of faith, with which our 
nation is now looking forward to the completion of 
this prediction ? Take the book into your hand ; it 
contains other predictions besides those which relate 
to ' the consolation of Israel :' — predictions which 
relate to you, and such as yourselves may judge of. 
See how accurately all that has been spoken of your- 
selves has been fulfilled; how wonderfully every 
thing has actually come to pass, among the kingdoms 
and princes of the earth, exactly in the order there 
foretold: — and then answer, whether you have not 
sufficient reason to expect with us, that this un- 
accomplished Promise, of a new kingdom which is 
to arise, and which is to bring with it a new age 
into the world, will also in like manner, and in the 
predicted time, no less certainly be fulfilled ?" 

Such is the language in which a Jew might have 
addressed a Gentile. It is plain that the reasoning 



involved no controversial topic, but related simply to 
a question of fact, which those who lived before 
Christ could judge, with fuller means of knowledge 
than we possess. If the books appealed to, were 
really as ancient as the Jews pretended and believed; 
and if they contained the prediction of events, re- 
lating to many nations of the world, besides their 
own, which had notoriously and confessedly been 
fulfilled ; — in this case, the conclusion did not depend 
upon any matter of opinion, but would equally have 
its effect upon the imagination of mankind, whether 
Jew or Gentile. Putting aside the truth of the 
prophecies in question, — if a large number of persons 
in every country and city, believed them to be true, 
it will be enough to account for the fact related by 
Tacitus and Suetonius. And on the other hand, the 
importance of such a belief, to the success of the 
Gospel, if we suppose it to have had God for its 
author, will sufficiently explain the reason, why the 
prophecies before us had been delivered. 

But admitting all this ; assuming that a knowledge 
of these prophecies, so far as it extended, would 
account for the existence of an opinion in the minds 
of many, of tlie approach of some undefined change in 
the face of human affairs, — yet how came this per- 
suasion to be so widely spread ? This aj)pears evi- 
dently to have been the case, from the testimony of 
the writers, whose words we have quoted. But if we 
su])pose the fact to have had any thing to do witli 
the early history of Christianity, the universaliti/ of 


the opinion in question, seems to be a part of the 
hypothesis; for after the destruction of Jerusalem, 
the propagation of Christianity was not slow or gra- 
dual ; was not step by step ; was not confined to any 
particular region or language ; but, if we may place 
any reliance upon the testimonies in our possession, 
was, as we have seen, suddenly diffused through- 
out the M'orld. On this point there can be no dis- 
pute. The earliest document we have, is a heathen 
document ; and it informs us, that within little 
more than thirty years from the time when the 
Jewish form of Avorship was ostensibly abolished, a 
new religion had sprung out of its ashes ; and that 
before the generation in which its Founder lived, 
had passed away, this religion was become the esta- 
blished faith of all ranks and ages, and conditions 
of men, in one of the remotest provinces of the 
Roman empire ! 

The difficulty here, is in explaining the Avide 
diffusion of the belief, which we suppose to have 
caused this change, and the simultaneousness of the 
effect. If we were to confine ourselves to the case 
of any particular city or district, it is plain that 
we should only have to assume a knowledge of the 
Jewish i)rophecies, on the part of the inhabitants ; 
and explain their possession of it, by supposing that 
a large number of Jews resided among them, — and 
we should at once have, if not a true, yet at least 
an adequate solution. In truth, the mere knowledge 
of the previous existence of a prophecy, such as 


that of the seventy weeks, would be enough, with- 
out any antecedent belief in its truth. For the 
destruction of Jerusalem was a fact not to be mis- 
taken, when it happened, though it might not be 
credited before; and many who were incredulous 
while it was standing, would change their opinion 
when it fell. 

Let us, then, for the sake of argument, extend the 
hypothesis ; and suppose that there was a community 
of Jews, living in every city of the Roman empire. 
In this case it would be as easy to understand the 
sudden and simultaneous rise of Christianity through- 
out a hundred cities and nations, as in one. In fact, 
we have before seen, that in such a case, it would be 
sudden and simultaneous, or not at all. If the pro- 
phecies had been known beforehand, and understood ; 
that is, had been talked of and discussed, and de- 
bated, in Rome and Alexandria, and Antioch, and 
in every considerable city of the ancient world, 
before the coming of Christ, — whether we suppose 
them to have been generally believed or disbelieved, 
will be a matter of little importance. If they were 
fulfilled ; if that which men had derided beforehand, 
and supposed to be only the dream of folly or enthu- 
siasm, actually came to pass, under circumstances 
which loft no doubt of a miraculous providence, — 
the effect, on this hypothesis, as when light is put 
to a combustible train, must have been visible and 
instantaneous ; not at this place or city only, or in 
that i)articular country; but in many places, and 


cities, and countries, at what may be said to be, one 
and the same time. 

" As the lightning cometh out of the east, and 
shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of 
the Son of man be," Avcre the words of Christ. No 
prediction was ever uttered which corresponded more 
truly with the event. Nor is there any common fact 
in history of which w'e could give a more satisfactory 
explanation, on acknowledged principles of reasoning, 
than the sudden rise of Christianity in the w^orld, pro- 
vided we may assume that a knowledge of the great 
and leading prophecies of the Old Testament, was 
generally diffused among mankind at the time imme- 
diately preceding the period of their final completion. 
That is to say, in other words, provided it could 
be shewn, that at the time of this great event, 
there was in every considerable city of the known 
world, not one or two individuals, but a large body 
of individuals, with these prophecies in their hands, 
and implicitly believing that the time of their fulfil- 
ment was then at hand. 


In proof of the fact, hypothetically assumed at the 
end of the last chapter, it will not be necessary to 


resort to any conjectural reasoning. It is well known, 
in a general way, that before tlie coming of Christ, as 
in the present day, the Jewish nation was not con- 
fined to any one particular country. But the extent 
of their dispersion through all parts of the world, 
and the importance which they derived from their 
numbers, in all the chief cities, both of the East and 
elsewhere, at the time I am now speaking of, can 
only be imperfectly understood by the mere classical 
reader. The fact itself indeed may be partly inferred, 
not only from the Roman historians, but from Cicero 
and Juvenal. It is, however, not necessary to avail 
ourselves of their, or of any indirect, testimony ; be- 
cause, among the writings of Philo, there are two 
books, one entitled, EI2 (I)AAKKON, and the other 
nEPI 'APETQN, in the course of which, while dis- 
coursing of other matters, he speaks of his nation, in 
terms which place the subject which we are noAv con- 
sidering in a very strong point of view. In order to 
understand the passage which I am about to quote, 
it will be convenient to say a few^ words respecting 
the occasion of it. 

Among other extravagant acts of Caligula, one 
was a command to the Jews, that his statue should 
be j)laccd in the Temple of Jerusalem ; and the re- 
sistance to this order is stated by Tacitus, as having 
given rise to the war, which ended in their destruc- 
tion. On this point, Tacitus differs from Josephus, 
who gives another account of the origin of the war ; 
and an examination of dates Mill immediately show 


that the latter was right, and not the Roman historian. 
In point of fact, the statue never was put up in the 
temple, nor was the outrage ever actually attempted. 
But so great was the consternation, which the bare 
contemplation of such an act of daring impiety 
created in the breasts of the nation, not in Judea 
only, but in other places, — that the Jews of Alexan- 
dria sent an embassy to Caligula, consisting of Philo 
and two others, hoping to make such a representa- 
tion of the consequences, as would prevail upon him 
to change his resolution. The two writings of Philo 
above-mentioned contain a full and particular rela- 
tion of the whole of the events connected with the 
transaction : the first, being an account of the causes, 
which led to the embassy which he had filled ; and 
the second, containing a history of the embassy itself. 
The whole forms a very curious narrative, extremely 
well written, and throws much light upon the con- 
dition of the provinces, under the government of the 
Romans. But our present concern is with the state- 
ments which we find in it, illustrative of the numbers 
and importance of the Jews at that period. As it is 
an account of things then familiarly known, and not 
of events long since past ; and as the truth or false- 
hood of Philo's statements must have been open to 
every reader, there can be no reason for suspecting 
him of any intentional exaggeration. 

He tells us that Alexandria was inhabited by two 
races of people (and the rest of Egypt the same), 
viz. by Egyptians and Jews ; and that not less than 


one million of the latter lived in Alexandria and in 
that part of the country, which extended from the 
plains of Libya (*cara|3a0^oc At/3i»a(,) to the bounda- 
ries of Ethiopia. He then goes on to detail the 
populousness of his nation, as spread through the 
world ' ; observing that on account of their multi- 
tudes, no single region was capable of containing 
them. Of the five divisions, into which Alexandria 
was divided, distinguished by the five first letters of 
the alphabet, they occupied two. At Rome, the 
whole of that part of the city which was on the 
other side of the Tiber, was also inhabited by his 
countrymen, of the race called Libertini; the de- 
scendants of those, who had been made captives in 
war and had obtained their manumission. In an- 
other part, speaking of the alarm which was created 
throughout the East, when the orders of Caligula 
were first received, " Petronius, the pro-consul," says 
Philo ^ " reflected in his mind upon the endless 
multitude of this people, which is not contained like 
other nations within any fixed limits, but is spread 
throughout the whole habitable globe. ' For it is 
disj)ersed,' said he to those about him, ' through all 
the provinces, both of the continent and the islands, 
so as almost to equal the indigenous inhabitants 

(wg Twv avOiyevijJV, /ut) ttoWii) tivi cokbiv i\aTTOva^ai). 

But besides the alarm \vhich Philo tells us, Pe- 
tronius expressed, at the recollection of the number of 

' Vol. II. p. 523—525, ed. Mangey. ' Vol. II. p. 577. 


the Jews, in the countries immediately adjacent to 
Palestine, he was especially moved, when he also 
reflected on the swarms, who dwelt beyond the 
Euphrates ; " for he knew that Babylon, and many 
other of the satrapies, were almost possessed by this 
nation." A few pages further on, we have the 
letter of Agrippa to Caligula, in which he is writing 
officially, as a public officer, to the head of the 
government ; and this has even stronger expressions. 
" Jerusalem," he says, " is indeed my country, but 
it is the metropolis not of one region, but of many : 
of Egypt, Phoenicia, Syria, Pamphylia, Cilicia, and 
the chief parts of Asia, as far as Bithynia, and the 
most remote shores of the Euxine." He reminds 
Caligula that the Jewish nation are equally numer- 
ous in Europe ; " Thessaly, Boeotia, Corinth, Pelopon- 
nesus, the whole of Greece, the continent, as well as 
the islands of Eubcea, Cyprus, Crete, being full of 
Jewish colonists. I say nothing," he adds, " of the 
Trans-Euphratensian provinces, all of which, except 
a small part, are inhabited by the same nation. So 
that in showing favour to the Jews of Jerusalem, in 
the affair of the statue, he would be able to obtain the 
gratitude, not of one state or city, but of many states 
and many cities, scattered far and wide through 
Europe, Asia, and Africa, — the inhabitants of islands 
and continents both inland and maritime." 

Now, unless these writings of Philo are forgeries, 
(a supposition which it cannot be necessary lo 
refute,) no further evidence need be adduced, in 



proof of the fact, on which this part of our reasoning 
is built. If the ready assent to Christianity, on the 
part of the heathen nations of antiquity, as compared 
with its reception among the heathen nations now 
in the world, may be accounted for, by assuming a 
knowledge of the Jewish prophecies, on tlie part of 
the former, which the latter are without : — then, I 
think, we may at once stand upon our conclusion. 
It is certain, from the direct evidence of history, 
that the Gentile part of the world were informed of 
the existence of these writings ; and if there were 
no historical proof of the fact, the contrary supposi- 
tion, with these passages of Philo before us, would 
be incredible. 

It may, perhaps, seem that this account of the 
motives by which I am supposing the belief of man- 
kind in Christianity to have been originally deter- 
mined, (or perhaps, as I should rather say, by Mhich 
their attention to the proofs which were provided of 
Christ's divine mission, was originally excited,) differs 
in circumstantials only, from the account offered by 
Gibbon ; and that, so far as a supposition of secon- 
dary causes is concerned, the explanations are sub- 
stantially the same. Admitting, for the sake of 
argument, that, at the time when Christ appeared, 
mankind were in expectation of his coming ; and 
that this expectation had its origin in tlie same 
source, as the expectation of the Jews ; yet this 
statement, it may be said, implies no miraculous 
effect. It only shows, that there were pre-disposing 


causes, in the accidental state of men's minds, at that 
particular juncture, which never occurred before or 
since; but from which, should they recur, the same 
effects (other circumstances being- the same) would 
again follow. There is no reason, it may be argued, 
why a person, who entirely disbelieved in the divine 
character of Christ and his religion, should not agree 
to all that has here been said, as readily as if he 
believed in both. The explanation reaches only to 
a matter of fact ; the conclusion from which will be 
the same, whether we believe or disbelieve the truth 
of Christianity ; whether we suppose the prophecies, 
by which the antecedent expectation of mankind 
was created, to have been mere dreams with no 
better foundation than popular rumour and credulity, 
or to have been divine revelations. 

It is just so : the success of Christianity in the 
world, and its rapid propagation, are historical facts 
not to be disputed ; as are also, I believe, the facts 
by which I have endeavoured to explain them. 
And the explanation just given is quite compatible 
with a disbelief in the divine authority of its Founder ; 
— this is admitted. But if it be asserted that the 
Jewish prophecies, out of which the success of 
Christianity grew, were not the mere dreams of en- 
thusiasm, but the oracles of God himself; — that the 
particular disposition of events, by means of which, 
the knowledge of these prophecies had been spread 
abroad in the world, was not an accidental effect, 
but had been concerted many ages before by God, 


and miraculously brought about by the direct inter- 
position of his Providence : — here an entirely new 
question presents itself to the mind. The point 
"which we have to determine, is not what the causes 
were ; but assuming them, what the nature of those 
causes was, — whether natural or divine ? 

There was nothing miraculous in the belief of 
mankind, — that nature, at the time when Christ ap- 
peared, was "in labour," (to use the expression of 
Suetonius,) and that she was about to bring forth a 
king, whose empire would extend over all the known 
world. Neither was there any thing miraculous, in 
the fact of Jews being found at Rome, and Antioch, 
and in all the principal cities of the world. But if it 
should appear, that this belief of mankind, and this 
dispersion of a particular nation through all the 
other nations, were the secondary and instrumental 
causes of the establishment of a religion in the world, 
which, from that time to the present, has been be- 
lieved to be divine, it then becomes a matter of deep 
interest to inquire, whether those facts were the 
result of chance, or were part of a wide and provi- 
dential scheme? 

It is evident that a thousand things may happen 
in the world, which have been prepared long before 
by God, with a view to designs which are to be 
accomplished in ages yet to come; and it is con- 
sistent with the soundest principles of reason to 
believe, that no event can ha])pen, which is not, in 
an enlarged sense of the word, part of some divine 


plan. But when we descend from this general pro- 
position to particular facts, we have then no certain 
compass to go by ; none, at least, which we can 
demonstrate to be certain, and to which we can 
compel the assent of other minds. In the works of 
the visible creation, there are positive data, from 
which we may often infer the meaning and intention 
of the great Architect, by infallible marks ; but in 
the operations of God's moral government, we can 
only guess at the final causes of things ; our firmest 
convictions must, after all, be based upon opinion 
and belief. As I have before had occasion to re- 
mark, the past intentions and future designs of God 
can never be demonstrated, by mere reasoning upon 
events. Be they of what nature they may, our know- 
ledge is confined to what we experience. We may 
know the immediate cause of the rebellion of the 
Jews against the Romans ; and we are sure, that the 
consequence of that rebellion was the destruction of 
their city ; but there is no human source of know- 
ledge, from which we could pretend to say, what was 
God's reason for bringing this event to pass : — that 
could never have been known except by revelation. 
Assume, however, that this event had been the 
subject of a prophecy, delivered to mankind fifteen 
hundred years before it was fulfilled, — and then the 
question will wear an entirely new aspect. On this 
supposition, not only the event itself will become a 
miracle, but every consequence, directly and neces- 
sarily arising out of it, will also be invested with a 


miraculous character. Now I am prepared to say, 
that this supposition gives a true and exact state- 
ment of the case of Christianity, as it actually stood 
ill the age of which we are now speaking. 

We do not, indeed, find in history any formal 
account of the causes of its success, at its first 
preaching ; but we know that there was a prevailing 
expectation, in many parts of the world at that par- 
ticular period, of some approaching event, which 
nearly concerned the future condition of mankind ; 
and that this state of feeling had its origin in the 
prophecies of the Old Testament. With this datum 
in our hands, we are able to explain the fact, — that 
the preaching of the Gospel found a readier recep- 
tion among the heathen nations of antiquity, than 
our own experience of its effects in the present day, 
would have enabled us to anticipate. It is likewise 
nearly certain that this effect was caused, by the 
minute dis])orsion of the Jews, at that particular 
period, through almost every city and kingdom in 
the then known world. All this we learn from 
history ; but we learn nothing more. 

On turning to the Old Testament, however, (the 
very instrument by means of which, the minds of 
mankind had been prei)ared to embrace the doc- 
trines, which have since formed the religious belief 
of nearly half the world,) we find that this dispersion 
of the Jewish people is the subject of the earliest, 
as well as of the longest and clearest prophecy, 
which th(» voluino contains. In doterminincr whotlior 


the rise of Christianity in the world was the effect 
of natural and secondary causes, or the result of 
events purposely contrived by God, we are, there- 
fore, not called upon to enter into any learned argu- 
ment, but simply to examine a few passages in this 
book, and form our opinion upon a point easy to 
be judged. There is no room for discussion, as to 
the meaning of the prophecy ; still less, if possible, 
as to its punctual fulfilment; — the only debateable 
question is, whether it be possible to suppose that 
it came true by chance ? 

Before this question is determined in the affirma- 
tive, there are two points which, I hope, will pre- 
viously be observed and pondered : the first relates to 
the subject-matter of the prediction. Any person who 
reads the narrative, which Josephus has left us, of the 
events which marked the siege of Jerusalem, (which 
is one most material feature of the prophecy relating 
to the dispersion of the Jews, and part of the event 
which it is speaking of;) and weighs the unspeakable 
greatness of the catastrophe, in comparison with any 
similar event recorded in history, — will see that 
it stands alone in the annals of mankind, neither 
like nor second to any calamity, which, either before 
or since, ever fell upon the people of any nation. 
When Tacitus comes to that part of his history, in 
which he has to relate this event, the expression 
which he uses, marks how deep an impression it had 
made upon his imagination. " Sed quia famosfp. urhis 
supi'emum diem tradituH sumus, conqruens videtm\ 

c c 


primordia ejus aperire" — Supremwn diem ! There was 
no metaphor in this phrase, the words were literally 
true. It was " the last day " of one of the greatest 
and most renowned cities in the world, which Tacitus 
w^as about to record ; and there is perhaps no parallel 
event in history, to which the same expression could, 
with so little exaggeration, have been applied. It is 
almost unnecessary for me to remark, that a similar 
observation may be made even more pointedly still, 
upon the state of dispersion among other nations, in 
which the Jews have always lived. Putting aside 
the persecutions they have endured, the persevering 
obloquy and injustice of which they have been for so 
many ages, the unresisting victims (and which no 
historian can describe in words more exact than 
those of inspiration) ; — yet the existence itself of 
the nation among us, even to the present day, pre- 
serving as they do, all their customs and peculiar- 
ities, and mixing, as in the beginning, only with each 
other, — is an event which we may not call mira- 
culous, perhaps, but which is certainly unparalleled. 
Now that two such events should be foretold in one 
and the same prophecy, and both of them come 
literally to pass — and this, by chance, — is a proposi- 
tion, infinitely more imjirobable, than would be the 
truth of the Christian revelation, even if we were 
able to give no account whatever of its origin. 

The other point to which I alluded, as one which 
ought not to be left out of the argument, by those 
who may endeavour to explain the fulfilinont of tin's 


prophecy on the supposition of chance, is this : — that 
the same prediction, in different words, and with 
the addition of new circumstances, is found in the 
writings of other prophets besides Moses : as in 
Isaiah vi. 10 ; Jeremiah ix. 15, xv. 4, xvi. 13, xxiv. 
9, xxix. 18, xlvi. 27; Ezekiel v. 10, xii. 15; Amos 
ix. 4. This would seem to multiply, ad infinitum, 
the amount of improbability, attaching to any solu- 
tion of the case on the principles we have here been 
considering. That five different persons, living in 
different ages, should have predicted one and the 
same event, would be remarkable ; but that the pre- 
diction should come true, would, on a supposition of 
chance, be astonishing indeed. It may be said, how- 
ever, that these were not independent predictions, 
but merely copied and repeated. Except we be- 
lieve in the divine inspiration of the Old Testament, 
this hyi^othesis will be absolutely necessary. But, if 
so, these separate prophecies, whether independent 
of each other or not, will show, at least, that the 
prophecy in Deuteronomy was understood many 
hundred years before its fulfilment, exactly in the 
same sense, as has always been put upon it since. 

I know not that any thing more need be said on 
this topic. It is plain that the evidence on which 
our belief in Christianity is now built, rests on proofs 
which, as I had occasion to observe at the com- 
mencement of this Dissertation, are altoofether dis- 
tinct from any explanation which may be proposed 
or rejected, respecting the causes of its rapid propa- 



gation in the world. It would not affect the founda- 
tions of our belief, one jot or one tittle, if this 
particular prophecy, relating to the dispersion of the 
Jews, were effaced from the sacred volume. But 
so long as it remains there, and is taken in con- 
junction with that other great event to which we 
have been referring, and with which it Mas con- 
nected, in the order of the divine councils : — the 
Christian has a field of argument, an entrenched 
position, within which, secure from haiTn himself, he 
may at all times, and certain of the advantage, give 
encounter to his adversary. 





There is no composition of Hume's, which is less 
impressed with the stamp of his acute and really 
superior understanding, than his Essay upon Miracles; 
and yet there is none, which has attracted equal 
attention. The proposition which he maintains is 
very imperfectly stated by him ; and the reasoning 
by which it is supported, far from skilful. If nothing 
more was needed, for the purpose of refuting his ge- 
neral position, than to show the inconsistency of the 
different parts of his argument, sometimes with his 
premises, sometimes with his conclusions, and some- 
times with each other, the task would require more 
time than labour. Nevertheless, the proposition 
itself, which he endeavours to establish, but most 
certainly does not, is, I imagine, an indubitable truth. 


Assuredly the credibility of a miracle cannot be 
established on human testimony. Not however for 
the reasons assigned by Hume, because human testi- 
mony is fallible, — but because human testimony is 
not the proper proof. This will be immediately 
apparent, if we consider for a moment what is the 
precise signification of the word miracle. 

If we look to his reasoning, it is evident that he 
considered any fact, which happened contrary to our 
experience of the course of nature, to be miraculous. 
A moment's reflection will show us, that it is not 
this which constitutes the miraculousness of any sup- 
posed event, but the supposition of its having been 
the effect of an immediate divine interposition ; — its 
happening contrary to our experience of the course 
of nature, would only constitute it a prodigy. If a 
stone, upon being thrown from the hand, were to 
ascend into the clouds, — this would be a prodigy, but 
it would be no miracle, according to the sense put 
upon the word, in the Bible. On the other hand, the 
most ordinary event may be rendered miraculous, by 
the supposition of a providential cause. 

For example : the plague of locusts in Egypt, as 
described in the tenth chapter of Exodus, was a 
miracle, no doubt. But why ? Not because it was 
contrary to our experience of the course of nature ; 
for the fact was not so. They were brought by the 
east wind, which blew for twenty-four hours ; and on 
the rising of a contrary wind, they were dispersed. 
The miracle, therefore, did not consist in the effect. 


but ill the alleged cause : namely, in the supposition 
of the fact having been occasioned by a special inter- 
position of God, for the purpose of punishing the 
obstinacy of Pharaoh. In this way the sickness of 
Hezekiah was miraculous ; the death of David's 
child by the wife of Uriah, was miraculous; but 
surely not because the events were contrary to our 
experience of the course of nature. 

It appears then that in the proof of a miracle, two 
things are required. 1. The effect, whatever it may 
be, must be shown to have happened. 2. We have 
to demonstrate, either by induction or by direct evi- 
dence, that the cause of the effect was the divine in- 
terference. — Two propositions more entirely distinct 
from each other, in point of principle, cannot be 
stated : the first being evidently a question of fact ; 
the second, a question of opinion. 

Now the mistake which Hume commits, from the 
beginning to the end of his Essay, would appear to 
be this : he predicates of the first, what is true only 
of the second. Assume any fact we please, if we 
assert the cause of it to have been divine, we cannot 
demonstrate this, by calling witnesses to the proof of 
our assertion. The reason is, not because human 
testimony is fallible or infallible, but because, in a 
matter of opinion, human testimony is not the proper 
evidence. Admitting the fact to have happened, we 
might as well attempt to prove a proposition in 
Euclid, by calling witnesses to its truth, as hope to 
prove by such means, the truth of a miracle. 


So long as we confine ourselves to the matter of 
fact, there is no possible event, be it supposed ever 
so wonderful, which may not be made credible, on 
the testimony of witnesses. But when the inquiry 
turns, not upon what it was which the witnesses 
saw, but how the fact happened, and wherefore, — we 
enter upon a province of argument, where the points 
at issue, are matters of opinion ; and must be deter- 
mined, not on the oath or affirmation of the wit- 
nesses, but on the reasons they are able to produce 
in support of their belief. 

It is surprising to observe the incoherent conclu- 
sions into which Hume is led, from overlooking the 
very simple distinction here pointed out. He says 
that " no testimony for any kind of miracle has ever 
amounted to a probability, much less to a proof." In 
the very same page, however, he limits this unqualified 
assertion, by ol)serving that " there may indeed be 
miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature," 
and that he would believe them to have happened, 
on such testimony as he proceeds to describe ; but 
then, says he, they must not be " the foundation of a 
system of religion." That is, as he distinctly explains 
himself, if the opinion of the witnesses as to the 
came of the fact, be agreeable to his own notions of 
probaljility, in that case, their testimony stands good ; 
and he believes the facts to have happened. But 
should they " be ascribed to any new system of reli- 
gion, this very circumstance would be a full proof of 
a cheat, and suflicieiit with all men of sense, not onlv 


to make them reject the fact," (even though previous 
to this mistake on their part, he had admitted that 
their testimony was to be believed,) " but even reject 
it Avithout farther examination." He does not say 
that in such a case he would consider the witnesses 
as mistaken in their opinion; that is, as imposed 
upon by their imagination, or as misled by credulity 
or superstition ; and that he would, therefore, be dis- 
posed to exercise increased caution, before he received 
their testimony to the facts which they related, — but 
that he would at once set them down as cheats and 
liars ! 

In reply to this statement of Hume's, it is common 
for writers on the side of Christianity to run into 
the opposite error ; and because, under certain sup- 
posed circumstances, it would be impossible to ques- 
tion the probity of the witnesses, they seem to reason, 
as if they thought that their ecvplanations of things 
would also claim to be implicitly received. 

For example, after combating the truth of Hume's 
reasoning on certain abstract grounds of argument, 
Paley concludes his reply to it as follows : " But the 
short consideration which, independently of every 
other, convinces me, that there is no solid foundation 
in Mr. Hume's conclusion, is the following. When a 
theorem is proposed to a mathematician, the first 
thing he does with it, is to try it upon a simple 
case ; and if it produce a false result, he is sure that 
there must be some mistake in the demonstration. 
Now to proceed in this way, with what may be 


called Mr. Hume's 'theorem.' If twelve men, whose 
probity and good sense I had long known, should 
seriously and circumstantially relate to me an ac- 
count of a miracle wrought before their eyes, and in 
which it was impossible that they should have been 
deceived : if the governor of the country, hearing a 
rumour of the account, should call these men into 
his presence, and offer them a short proposal, either 
to confess the imposture, or submit to be tied to a 
gibbet ; if they should refuse with one voice to ac- 
knowledge that there existed any falsehood or im- 
posture in the case ; if this threat were communi- 
cated to them separately, yet with no different effect ; 
if it was at last executed ; if I myself saw them, 
one after another, consenting to be racked, burnt, 
or strangled, rather than give up the truth of their 
account : — still, if Mr. Hume's rule be my guide, I 
am not to believe them. Now I undertake to say, 
that there exists not a sceptic in the world, who 
would not believe them, or who would defend such 

If in this passage, Paley had limited his proposi- 
tion to a proof of the honesty and sincerity of the 
witnesses in the case here supposed, and which, of 
course, is meant as a parallel instance with that of 
the Apostles, every one will, I think go along with 
him in his conclusion. But if we are to understand 
that the character of the witnesses, as here tested, 
would be a warrant, not only for the truth of the 
facts which they asserted, but of the opinions, like- 


wise, for the sake of which we are left to infer that 
they exposed themselves to so many sufferings, — the 
premises, as stated above, will be found insufficient 
for his argument. Endurance of persecution, on 
the part of witnesses, affords no test of their judg- 
ment ; though assuredly no reasonable person would 
doubt their veracity, in the face of such irrefragable 
proofs of disinterestedness and sincerity, as here de- 

But Paley does not seem to have recollected, 
while proposing the above case, that it is the cause 
to which we refer an effect, which constitutes its 
miraculousness ; and that this is not a matter falling 
under the senses of mankind. If we suppose, there- 
fore, these same witnesses to have affirmed, not 
merely that the facts which they testified had hap- 
pened in their presence, but, moreover, that they 
were not the effect of secret arts of any kind, nor 
of collusion, nor of spiritual agency, but of God's 
immediate interposition: — these evidently, whether 
they were right or wrong, are not statements of fact, 
but of opinion, to be explained by reason and argu- 
ment. In default of these, it would be in vain for 
the witnesses, however large the number, to appeal 
to the sufferings they had endured. This argument 
would demonstrate the honesty of their testimony, 
but not the truth of their conclusions ; nor would 
any inflictions, though endured ever so patiently and 
unflinchingly, persuade mankind to embrace these 
last, unless corroborated by arguments totally inde- 


pendent of the proofs to show the credibility of the 

Substitute, then, in the case which Paley has de- 
scribed, that Avhich is the hypothesis of the Christian 
revelation, namely, that the witnesses had not con- 
tented themselves with recording their opinion as 
to the cause of the effects which they had seen, but 
had further declared, that the end for which God had 
manifested his power, was to persuade mankind to 
change their mode of life, to renounce the errors of 
their belief, and to embrace a system of faith, founded 
altogether upon new views, both of this world and 
of the next : — and I feel inclined almost to reverse 
the conclusion of Paley ; and instead of saying that 
there is not a sceptic in the world, who would not 
believe his twelve witnesses, to say, that there is not 
a sober-minded man in the world, who would act 
upon such evidence, except their testimony was ex- 
plained by collateral proofs of some kind, over and 
above the arguments, contained in the preceding 

In the case of the miracles related in the New 
Testament, we have seen, in a former part of this 
volume, what was the collateral proof on which the 
belief of their divine authority was originally founded, 
as also the proof on which it stands with us. In the 
days of the Apostles, this part of the proof was 
drawn from the prophecies of the Old Testament. 
In the present day it is sujiplied, not only by this, 
but also by tlie establishment in the worhJ, of tliat 



system of belief, which the miracles were adduced to 
attest. But if we take the question of miracles, in 
the abstract, as argued by Hume and Paley, and de- 
fine the word according to the meaning, in wliich it 
is always used by the writers of the Old and New 
Testaments, I am inclined to agree with the former, 
rather than with the latter ; and to say that the 
truth of a miracle is not susceptible of demonstra- 
tion by human testimony alone. But if Hume in- 
tended to say, (and it is very difficult to be sure of his 
exact meaning, on this point,) that no testimony can 
establish the credibility of a fact, which implies a 
deviation (so far as we can judge) from the usual 
course of nature, — nothing can be more easy of 
refutation than such a proposition. 


I OBSERVED just noM', that in the proof of a miracle, 
two things are required. First : The effect, what- 
ever it may be, must be shown to have happened. 
Secondly : We have to demonstrate, either by induc- 
tion or by direct evidence, that the cause of the effect 
was the divine interference. The latter of these points 
was examined by me, when considering the use and 
design of the Old Testament : in the present Dis- 


sertation, I must be understood as confining my 
remarks exclusively to the former of the above-men- 
tioned points ; and if, in compliance with a customary 
form of speech, I should be found using the vrord 
miracle, when speaking of facts, I desire it to be 
carefully remembered, that I leave entirely out of 
consideration all opinion as to the cause ; and speak 
of the effects as miraculous, only because they are 
supposed to be deviations from the regular course of 
nature, or, as I should more properly say, of our 

The question, then, which I am about to discuss, 
may be stated in very few words. — Did the events 
related in the New Testament really happen ? — The 
question is not, how they happened, or for ivhat end, 
or by what immediate agency ; it is not, whether the 
conclusions which were dra\^'n from them by man- 
kind, were trite or untrue ; but whether the facts on 
which those conclusions, right or wrong, have been 
built, were real transactions ? 

Now before we come to the evidence on which 
the determination of this question will depend, 
the first thing which we have to do, is to agree 
about terms ; or rather about the subject-matter of 
inquiry. What do we mean, when we say that an 
event really happened ? Until we know what it is, 
which constitutes, in general, the reality of a fact, or 
the truth of an historical transaction, we cannot 
define the evidence, which the proof of the miracles, 
recorded in tlio New Testament, requires ; nor :ijq)ly 


a proper test for measuring the degree of credibility 
they may possess. 

Truth and falsehood, in strict propriety of lan- 
guage, cannot be predicated of facts, but only of the 
historian, or of the witness on whose testimony they 
are received. Facts are real or unreal, not true or 
false. These last words have always a reference to 
some proposition or opinion in the mind of the 
speaker. But if we were examining a diamond or 
other precious stone, we should not say it was true 
or untrue, but real or unreal. It is the same of any 
sound, or smell, or impression upon the senses : — the 
question is not whether what we saw or felt, or 
heard was true ; (that relates to another inquiry ;) but 
whether it was real, or only fancied. 

Accordingly, when we inquire whether or not any 
fact recorded in history really happened, the ques- 
tion is, whether the event was seen, or heard, or 
felt by those who were present, or existed only 
in the imagination of the historian? If we are 
speaking of a fact which took place in our own 
presence, that which is said by us to have happened, 
is what fell under the observation of our senses. We 
cannot, however, have this evidence in the case of 
what others experienced ; and therefore, supposing 
the event to have happened in a remote country, or 
in a distant age, all that we mean to say, when we 
assert its reality, is not how it happened, or why it 
happened, but only that those who were present 
when it took i)lace, and who must have seen it, if it 



(lid happen, and have known, if it did not, asserted 
and believed it to have been a fact. 

This is plainly not a metaphysical definition, which 
will apply to all cases of supposed facts ; because 
events may happen in the moon, where perhaps thei'e 
are no inhabitants, or in places where no witnesses 
were present, as must be the case every day in the 
instance of many natural phenomena. But in the 
instance of historical events, that is, of events of 
which the actions of mankind are the subject, it is, I 
conceive strictly correct. It is not merely a definition 
of the proper proof, but it is a definition of the thing 
itself. When the matter in debate is, what was felt 
or seen, or heard ? the belief of those who were pre- 
sent constitutes the fact which we are seeking to 

It is true that when people speak of what they 
saw, espebially in the case where the subject of their 
testimony is any thing that had strongly affected 
their imagination, they often mix up with their rela- 
tion much which is only matter of opinion. That is 
to say, in telling you what they witnessed, they tell 
you at the same time what they thought and ima- 
gined. But it is easy in such cases to discriminate 
between the testimony of the witnesses and their 
opinions ; and to believe the one, without attaching 
any importance to the other, or no more importance 
than the value of their judgment may deserve. 

For cxamjde, in " a memorable story," as Ilume 
calls it, related by Cardinal de Retz in his Memoirs, 


the latter tells us, that passing through Saragossa, the 
capital of Arragon, he was shown in the cathedral a 
man who had served for seven years in the capacity 
of a door-keeper, and who had been seen for a long 
time, by all the people of the city, wanting a leg. 
He had recovered that limb, it was said, by the rub- 
bing of holy oil upon the stump ; and the Cardinal 
testifies to having seen him walking upon two legs. 
Now there can be no doubt in this case, but that 
what the people of Saragossa, and the Cardinal de 
Retz, actually saw, must have been true. But it is 
evident, that the marvellous part of this story de- 
jiends upon the question, whether the second leg of 
the door-keeper was really a leg of flesh and blood, 
or only seemed to be such : and this point the nar- 
rative does not enable us to determine, farther than 
that, in the opinion of the people of Saragossa, it 
was a real leg, and produced by the rubbing of 
holy oil. 

But to take another example, from a somewhat 
similar case related in the New Testament. When 
the people of Jerusalem saw the cripple, who was 
laid at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, get up and 
walk, at the bidding of Peter, they could not be 
deceived in this, if it was a real transaction. Sup- 
posing all those who were present to have believed 
that the man got up and walked, it must have been 
a fact. They may have been mistaken in the judg- 
ment they formed ; but no deception could have 
been practised upon their senses. Limiting the 



remark to this testimony, what they saw '' really 

In this case, though we admit the fact to have 
been a real transaction, yet it is easy to imagine the 
possibility of a fraud. It was perhaps in the power 
of those who lived at the time, to satisfy themselves 
upon this point, but it is not in our power to insti- 
tute the inquiry. There are cases, however, of another 
kind, and in which the supposition of a mistake, on 
the part of those who were present, would seem to 
be altogether inadmissible ; in which, therefore, a 
person who is incredulous, has no choice, except to 
disbelieve the truth of the transaction from begin- 
ning to end, denying the authenticity of the docu- 
ment in which the account of it is contained. 

In this way, for example, a person may very con- 
ceivably deny the truth of the facts related in the 
book of Exodus. But it is the only way in which he 
can do so. For if it could be demonstrated beyond 
contradiction, by a document whose authority was 
not to be impeached, and the evidence of which was 
confirmed by other historical proofs, drawn from 
entirely independent sources, that the events related 
by Moses, were unanimously believed by those who 
are described as having been present ; — in that case, 
the supposition of their not having really hajipened, 
appears to me, quite impossible. If the thousands of 
Jews, who travelled with Moses in the wilderness, 
all believed that their shoes never wore out, that 
their garments never waxed old for forty years, that 


their feet never swelled in all that time, and that 
they were fed daily with manna, which was provided 
for them by an unseen hand ; I say, if it could be 
demonstrated, that all this was believed by those by 
whom it is said to have been experienced, — it must 
have been a fact ; wonderful and impossible as the 
story may be thought, nothing would be so wonderful 
and impossible, as that it should not really have 
happened. Whether it was the God of their fathers, 
or some god of the nations, who was the author of 
these wonders; and on the former supposition, 
whether the design of them was to sanction the 
authority of the laws delivered by Moses, or whether 
we resort to any other explanation, will not matter ; — 
all these are questions of opinion, and might have 
been debated ; — but if the history be authentic, it is 
impossible to suppose that there could have been, at 
the time, any doubt about the facts. 

In hke manner let us take the case of the Egyp- 
tians, as related in the same books. If they believed 
in the occurrence of all the evils, which are de- 
scribed as having fallen upon them ; the plague of 
flies, and locusts, and hail, the murrain of beasts, 
the death of their first-born ; — these facts were not 
of a kind to allow the supposition of a mistake. 
Either they really happened, or the history, in which 
they are related, is not an authentic history, but 
must have been the invention of a later ajre. We 
may not assent to the pretensions of Moses to a 


divine authority, and may account for the facts as we 
please ; but if they were believed by the Egyptians 
to whom they happened, and by the Jews before 
whom they happened ; that is to say, by those who 
were eye-witnesses of the events, and could not have 
believed them, if they were only the inventions of an 
after age : — in that case, be the author of the book 
of Exodus who he may, the history which he has left 
us, must be true. 

It will easily be seen that these remarks are 
founded upon principles of general reasoning, and will 
apply as properly, mutatis mutandis, to the histories 
of Greece and Rome, and to historical facts of every 
kind, as to the histories contained in the Old and 
New Testaments. When it is said that a history is 
authentic, we do not merely mean that it is genuine; 
that is to say, written by the author whose name it 
bears ; but we mean that it contains a contemporary 
account of facts; such an account, that is, as was 
believed by those who lived at the time, when they 
are supposed to have happened. And it is this 
assumption of the mind, which lies at the bottom of 
the credit given to the historian, and not simply an 
implicit belief in his veracity. No one calls in doubt 
the veracity and integrity of Lord Clarendon, as a 
narrator of facts. But if it could be shown that the 
things which he has related, though believed by him- 
self, had never been heard of, or were not believed 
by any of his contemporaries, — it would be a vain 


attempt, to try to persuade mankind that the trans- 
actions detailed by him had really happened, merely 
on the credit due to the weight of his character. 

This it is, then, which constitutes the peculiar 
value of a written and published contemporary docu- 
ment. We appeal to it, not as a testimony of what the 
writer believed (for he would be but a single witness), 
but as a testimony of what is supposed to have been 
believed by all mankind, at the time in which he 
wrote. And that which I am now contending for is, 
that if the subject of their belief, was something fall- 
ing under the senses of a large number of individuals, 
— it was an evidence, by which we cannot be de- 
ceived. — What was seen and witnessed by many, or 
even by a single individual, be it supposed ever so 
extraordinary, " really happened." The true nature 
and proper explanation of the facts, is a different 
inquiry, and one which, in any particular instance, 
may open a wide door to speculation. But I am 
adverting to the witness of men's eyes and ears, and 
not of their judgment. This last is fallible enough ; 
but whether it was so or not, in a given case, is a 
question of opinion, and depends ui^on quite other 
evidence, from that which the senses of mankind 

The bearing of these remarks upon the books of 
the New Testament, would not need to be pointed 
out, except from a common opinion, that the autho- 
rity of them depends upon their being the productions 
of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and other disci- 


pies of Jesus Christ. Certainly they derive, in many 
most important respects, a great additional value 
from this supposed circumstance ; nevertheless, so 
far as regards the credibility of the facts related in 
the New Testament, that depends upon the proof of 
those books having been published, at the time when 
the subject was fresh in the memory of men then 
alive ; and not at all upon the relationship in which 
the writers may have stood to Christ. 

If any thing, this would rather detract from the 
weight of their testimony than add to it ; for while 
it shoAvs that they were competent witnesses, it also 
places us under the necessity of proving that they 
were honest and impartial ones. The only import- 
ant questions that we have to consider are : — 1st, Did 
the writers of the books, be they who they may, live 
at the time when the events are stated to have hap- 
pened ? and, 2d, Was their statement the same, as 
was believed by those who lived on the spot, and at 
the time when they took place ? These are the points 
on which the proof of the authority of the books 
really depends ; other questions are important, only 
as they are subordinate to these. The names of the 
writers, or their station, or their character, weigh next 
to nothing in this part of the evidence. Be their tes- 
timony shewn to have been ever so disinterested and 
sincere, yet if it were consistent with such an opinion 
to suppose, that the facts which they have related, 
miglit have been believed originally only by them- 
selves and by some ten or twelve intimate compiuiions 


of Christ, but disbelieved, or never heard of, by any 
others who were living at the time, in Jerusalem or 
elsewhere; — we may confidently say that, whether 
Christianity be true or not, it would never, in such a 
case, have become the established religion of man- 
kind. — And conversely, on a supposition that the 
books now in our possession were written at the 
time when the events are stated to have taken place, 
or, while thousands must have been alive, by whom, 
if they really happened, they must have been wit- 
nessed : then, — as the establishment of Christianity 
affords a proof, almost demonstrative, that the facts 
related by the Evangelists must have been believed 
by mankind in general at the time to which the nar- 
rative relates, — we are warranted in saying, that the 
history in our possession is a genuine and authentic 
history, and may be relied upon, as not merely credi- 
ble, but true. 

It is not here meant to assert that the writers 
cannot have been mistaken, in the construction put 
by them upon the facts which they have related ; but 
only that, if what they have recorded was the belief 
of all, who were present at the transactions which 
they have described, — in that case the events related 
in the New Testament must really have happened. 
It has all the evidence which any history does pos- 
sess, or can even be conceived to possess ; for, be a 
fact what it may, an^historian can only relate, what 
those who were present believed. 

It is observed by Hume, that " there is no neces- 


sary connexion between the reality of facts and the 
report of witnesses." Certainly there is not ; but 
there is something very like a necessary connexion, 
between the reality of facts and the belief of wit- 
nesses. Now the question which we are discussing 
is, not what was the report of any set of individuals, 
but what was the belief of those who were living at 
the time and on the spot. Had their report contra- 
dicted that of the Apostles, it is quite certain that 
it would not have obtained belief among mankind at 

This, let me observe, is simply an historical in- 
quiry. We know that the actions ascribed to Christ 
were variously explained, both at Jerusalem and else- 
where ; but there is no evidence to show that they 
were disbelieved by any persons. What evidence 
we possess leads to the opposite conclusion. This 
point we shall come to presently. In the meantime, 
let me remark that the fact now under considera- 
tion may certainly, and even on Hume's own prin- 
ciple, be proved on human testimony. Whatever 
we may think of the miracles themselves, as re- 
corded in the New Testament, there is nothing 
miraculous in their having been believed. As man- 
kind, in the present day, believe them to have been 
true, it is not a thing incredible, that they should 
have likewise so believed, in the days of the Apostles. 
Even if this belief were founded on the knavery and 
credulity of mankind, it nevertheless is not itself a 
miracle. The most ardent disciple of Hume, there- 


fore, will not pretend to say, that this is a fact not 
susceptible of proof : a proposition which no amount 
of documentary evidence can authenticate. But if 
he will grant us this conclusion, that is, admit that 
the miracles of Christ must have been believed by 
his contemporaries, as they have ever since continued 
to be believed by the larger part of mankind, we may 
freely engage to make him a present of all Hume's 
finely-drawn reasoning to prove, that they cannot be 
made credible, from the nature of things. Hume's 
meaning probably was, that, from the nature of 
things, the supposition of a divine interposition can- 
not be made credible on human testimony. But 
it is sufficient to reply, that, in the Gospel, the proof 
of a divine interposition does not rest upon human 
testimony, nor upon documentary evidence of any 
kind ; but upon proof distinct from both, and which 
relates to an entirely different argument. To say of 
any fact, which confessedly might happen, if God 
pleased, that, even if it did happen, no amount of 
human testimony would be sufficient to make it 
credible, is a mere gratuitous opinion, founded 
neither on reason nor experience. It is the pre- 
sumed cause which cannot be proved on the testi- 
mony of witnesses, not the fact itself 



In answer then to the question, — Did the facts re- 
lated in the New Testament really happen ? — two 
propositions must be proved ; viz. That the writers 
of the books lived in the age to which the history 
refers ; and secondly, That the statement which they 
have left, was the same as was generally believed at 
the time, both in Jerusalem and elsewhere. How 
the facts are to be explained ; whether the actions 
attributed to Christ were the effect of fraud and 
collusion, whether of natural or preternatural causes ? 
— forms no jiart of the inquiry. 

And, first, let us examine the evidence for saying, 
that the writers of the books lived in the age to 
which the history refers. 

For the full and direct proof of this proposition, 
we may refer to almost any popular work upon the 
Evidences. It is hardly possible to add any thing 
material to the arguments which Lardner and others 
have adduced, to show the genuineness of the books 
of the New Testament. Something may, perhaps, be 
said in further confirmation of the authenticity of the 
history itself, but nothing can or need be added to 
prove, that the authors of it were those, to whom it 
has always been ascribed. Whatever doubts there 
may be on this point, must be traced to the contents 
of the volume, and not to any deficiency in the ex- 


ternal evidence of its having been written by Mat- 
thew, and Mark, and Luke, and John. If the con- 
tents of the New Testament had related simply to 
the history of some remarkable war, or any other 
ordinary event, in the annals of mankind, no ques- 
tion would ever have been raised on this head ; for 
it would not be outstripj^ing truth to say, that all 
the writings of antiquity put together do not possess 
so many, or rather, do not possess a hundredth part 
of the external proofs of genuineness, which this 
single volume can exhibit. 

To say nothing of some hundred MSS. (many of 
them claiming a far higher antiquity than any other 
similar documents now extant,) and of distinct ver- 
sions into all the principal languages of antiquity, 
made in the age immediately succeeding that of the 
Apostles: — There are quotations from these books 
to be found in the early fathers, and in ecclesiastical 
writers, some reaching to the very generation in 
which the books profess to have been composed; 
and so numerous in the next and every succeeding 
generation, as to imply that they were then almost 
as familiarly known and referred to, as in the pre- 
sent day. It is not necessary to show this, because, 
though many persons may be ignorant of the fact, 
yet no one who has taken the pains to examine the 
subject will feel any doubt upon the point. 

Contrast now this evidence, with the proofs which 
we possess, of the authenticity of any other of the 
writings of the same age. Upon what evidence is it 


that we believe the Commentaries of Caesar to have 
been written by him ? Simply that we know, from the 
letters of Cicero, that he wrote such a work ; and 
that the same was extant in the days of Qiiintilian 
and Plutarch. But if it be further asked, how do we 
know, that the work in our possession is the same as 
that which they had read, and which Cicero speaks 
of with such commendation, for the purity of its style 
and other merits? We have no positive proofs of 
this, except that the style of the work in our hands 
answers to this character. 

Again, suppose we were to ask on what evidence 
we ground our belief, that the history of the Pelo- 
ponnesian war by Thucydides, is an authentic history ? 
Abstracted from the internal marks of genuineness 
to be found in the work, the only direct eMernal proof 
that I know of is, — that from what is said by Cicero 
and Quintilian of the style of Thucydides, and of the 
obscurity of many parts of his writings, and from the 
remarks of Dionysius of Halicarnassus upon the con- 
tents of it, it is natural to believe that they were 
speaking of the work now in our possession. And 
though there are no MSS. of an ancient date, no 
versions of this history into the languages of the 
time, nor any quotations from the work in early 
authors; and though the writers above named lived 
not loss than four hundred years after the age of 
Thucydides ; yet we suppose it probable that in 
their age, testimony could have been produced, 
from writings that are now lost, similar in kind to 



what we adduce, in evidence of the authenticity of 
the history left us by the Evangelists. Neverthe- 
less, were any one, in the face of this bare assump- 
tion, unsupported as it is by any facts, to declare 
that he believed the writings in question, or those 
of Ca3sar, and Virgil, and others, to have been the 
forgeries of a later age, merely because such a sup- 
position is hypothetically possible, it is likely that he 
would be set down as a person of unsound mind. 

Even this ground, however, cannot be taken in 
the case of the writings of the New Testament. The 
opinion that they were the forgeries of a later age 
is not hypothetically possible, unless we suppose it 
possible that all the writings of all the fathers, and 
of all the early ecclesiastical historians, have been 
also forged; as Avell as all the versions into the 
Syriac, the Coptic, the Armenian, and other lan- 
guages, some of which have for many ages ceased 
even to be spoken. 

Let us now leave the proofs that may be produced, 
to show that the writings which comprise the New 
Testament were written in the acje which they pre- 
tend, and turn to the proof of their having been 
likewise written by the persons to whom they are 
ascribed ; or, at all events, by persons who were not 
only present on the spot, where the scene of the 
history is laid, but were also ear and eye witnesses 
of what they have related. 

We cannot take up any work on the subject of 
the Evidences, without observing the sifting criticism 


to which the writings of the New Testament have 
been on all sides subjected. How laboriously is 
every date, every custom, every historical allusion, 
even every proper name, explained and discussed ! 
How closely is every objection, however slight, sur- 
veyed and pondered ! How scrupulously is every 
suspicion, even the merest surmise, propounded as 
a matter of formal inquiry and research ! Now, as 
the writers profess, for the most part, only to relate 
what they had seen themselves, or heard from others 
who had, it is not at all surprising to find, that they 
have triumphantly passed through this ordeal, severe 
as it has been. It only implies that they have said 
nothing except what they knew to be true. But 
when we consider that the scene of this history em- 
braces many nations, speaking different languages, 
with different customs, and laws, and institutions ; 
and add to this, that the writers of it were evidently 
not men of learning and various knowledge : — the 
fact admits of no other explanation. That not one 
single point has ever been fixed upon, in any part of 
the volume, at variance with the history of the time, 
or with the manners and customs of the different 
nations to whom they directly and indirectly refer, 
is a circumstance which, on a supposition of tlie 
books being forgeries, and of the writers not speaking 
of their personal knowledge, but only from hearsay 
or imagination, would be a literary phenomenon, con- 
trary to all that experience would lead us to suppose 


I think, then, it may be assumed, that as far as 
external proofs of any kind can be required, (and 
on any principle of literary criticism, the same may 
be said of internal proofs,) the marks of genuine- 
ness which the New Testament can produce, are 
quite complete. There is no stamp of genuineness 
which an ancient writing can exhibit, which we do 
not find in this volume ; nor has a single indication 
of spuriousness ever been pointed out. And yet 
while all other ancient historians are allowed to pass, 
almost without examination, the writers of the New 
Testament have not simply been put upon their 
trial, without any specific charge; but, moreover, 
after every accusation has been disproved, and every 
testimony of character, which the ingenuity even of 
an adversary can require, been produced, still an 
acquittal is not pronounced. It would seem to be 
a question that is never to be settled. That which 
is regarded as proof in other cases, is not received 
as such in theirs ; whatever is possible, must be re- 
butted as if it had been probable ; while nothing is 
admitted in their favour, except it can be demon- 
strated to be true. 

The case has been well stated by an eloquent 
living writer, who has strongly animadverted upon 
the unfairness of such a way of reasoning. " It is 
striking to observe," he says, " the perfect confidence 
with which an infidel will quote a passage from an 
ancient historian. He, perhaps, does not over-rate 
the credit due to him. But present him witli a 

E e 


tabellated and comparative view of all the evidences 
which can be adduced for the Gospel of St. Matthew, 
and any profane historian whom he chooses to fix 
upon, and let each distinct evidence be discussed 
upon no other principle than the ordinary and ap- 
proved principles of criticism, we assure him, that 
the sacred history would far outweigh the profane 
in the number and value of its testimonies. In illus- 
tration of the above remarks, we can refer to the 
experience of those who have attended to this ex- 
amination. We ask them to recollect the satisfac- 
tion which they have felt, when they came to those 
parts of the examination, where the argument as- 
sumes a secular complexion. Let us take the 
testimony of Tacitus for an example. He asserts 
the execution of our Saviour in the reign of Tibe- 
rius, and under the procuratorship of Pilate; the 
temporary check which this gave to his religion ; 
its revival, and the progress it had made, not only 
over Judea, but to the city of Rome. Now, all this 
is attested in the annals of Tacitus. But it is also 
attested in a far more direct and circumstantial 
manner, in the annals of another author, entitled the 
Histcyry of the Acts of the Apostles, hy the Evan- 
gelist Luke. Both of these i)crformances carry on 
the very face of them, the appearance of unsuspicious 
and well-authenticated documents. But there are 
several circumstances in which the testimony of 
Luke possesses a decided advantage over the testi- 
mony of Tacitus. He was the companion of these 


very Apostles. He was an eye-witness to many of 
the events recorded by him. He had the advantage 
over the Roman historian in time and place, and in 
personal knowledge of many of the circumstances in 
his history. The genuineness of his publication too, 
and the time of its appearance, are far better estab- 
lished, and by precisely that kind of argument, which 
is held decisive in every other question of erudition. 
Besides all this, we have the testimony of at least 
five of the Christian Fathers, all of whom had the 
same or a greater advantage, in point of time, than 
Tacitus, and who had a much readier and nearer 
access to original sources of information. Now how 
comes it, that the testimony of Tacitus, a distant and 
later historian, should yield such delight and satis- 
faction to the inquirer, while all the antecedent 
testimony, (which by every principle of approved 
criticism, is much stronger than the other) should 
produce an impression that is comparatively languid 
and ineffectual ?" 

I have quoted this passage at length, because it 
states in lively language a fact which requires to be 
explained. There is, I think, no doubt that, more 
or less, this way of reasoning infects the minds both 
of believers and unbelievers. That it is not a proper 
way of reasoning, I shall presently endeavour to 
show ; but that it is a natural way, is sufficiently 
apparent from its universality. For an explanation 
of the fact, we are referred by Dr. Chalmers, rather 
to the perverseness of the human heart than to the 

E e 2 


weakness of the human understanding. " It is owing," 
says he, " in a great measure, to the principle to which 
we have already alluded. There is a sacredness an- 
nexed to the subject, so long as it is under the pen 
of Fathers and Evangelists ; and this very sacredness 
takes away from the freedom and confidence of the 
argument. The moment that it is taken up by a 
profane author, the spell which held the understand- 
ing, in some degree of restraint, is dissipated. We 
now tread on the more familiar ground of ordinary 
history ; and the evidence for the truth of the Gospel, 
appears more assimilated to that evidence, which 
brings home to our conviction the particulars of the 
Greek and Roman story ^" 

This is surely going a long way about, to arrive at 
the solution of a case, which evidently may be other- 
wise explained, and by a shorter and easier method. 
The indisposition of men's hearts to the reception of 
divine truth may perhaps bias the understanding, but 
it does not disable it altogether. In the instance 
before us, there is a real difficulty, however nmch it 
may be magnified. An inherent fallibility attaches 
to all documentary evidence, opening the door to a 
thousand possibilities of deception or mistake, any 
one of which, it is felt, would, abstractedly consi- 
dered, be more probable, than that facts so very 
uncommon as those which the Evangelists have 
related, should have really happened. ]5ut it is the 

' Evidences of Cliristianily, p. 21. 


unconimoiuiess of the facts, and not their sacredness, 
which causes our belief to falter. A\'ere the same 
kind of facts related in the Annals of Tacitus which 
we find in the New Testament, it is not likely that 
mankind would reason differently in the two cases, 
merely because Tacitus was a profane historian, or 
because the miracles related by him were heathen 
and not Christian. 

In ordinary cases it is beyond any doubt, that the 
testimony of men who were present at the transact- 
ing of events, is to be preferred before the testimony 
of those who lived afterwards, and at a distance 
from the place where they happened. But then it 
must be remembered, in reference to the instance 
just now adverted to, that when Tacitus and Sueto- 
nius speak of Christ, and of the prevalence of his 
religion at the time when they wrote, they speak 
only of such facts as are conformable to our expe- 
rience ; not such as have never been heard of, in 
any other authentic history. 

The difference of the two cases will be best 
explained by examples. Once more then, let us 
take the history which Thucydides has left us of the 
Peloponnesian war. On what reasoning do we con- 
clude that the events which are there so fully related, 
really happened ? The answer is plain ; that the 
account which we possess of the transactions, which 
it describes, was written by an eye-witness of many 
of them, and a contemporary of them all. Writing, 
as he did, at the very time, it is absurd to suppose, that 


lie would have given a detailed narrative of victories 
and sieges, and various public events of the same 
kind, if such events had never taken place ; and still 
more absurd to suppose, that if he had, the history 
would have been believed by his contemporaries. 

But then, on what evidence is it that we affirm 
this history to have been written by a person living 
at the time : by that Thucydides, in short, the son of 
Olorus, whose name is mentioned in the third book ? 
The answer is. Why do you doubt it? State the 
reasons of your question, and we shall then, perhaps, 
be able to find the exact reply. In the mean time, it 
is a sufficient answer, that the history itself has all 
the marks, which we should expect to find in the 
writings of one, who was personally acquainted with 
the times which he describes. It contains nothing 
whatever, which is inconsistent with the supposition 
of its being a contemporary and veracious account ; 
nor is there any hint in ancient writers, of doubts 
having existed as to its genuineness. 

A disputant, it is true, may still reply, that there 
is only documentary evidence for all this ; that this is 
a fallible proof; that none but probable arguments 
have been adduced ; that there is no contradiction in 
supposing the books to have been composed after 
the events, by a writer assuming the character of an 
eye-witness, and borrowing, for that purpose, the 
name of a ])crson mentioned in the course of the 
history, with the design of giving a colouring to his 
fraud. All this doubtless might be urged, and is 


supposable. But we see, at once, the absurd con- 
clusions, to which such scrupulousness of belief would 
lead ; and I think that we should be justified in 
leaving the argument, as having been raised by one 
who was speaking as a sophist, and not as a grave 
inquirer after truth. 

But the case will be materially altered if we 
change the circumstances, and suppose that in- 
stead of narrating a series of military and political 
transactions, such as are agreeable to our experience 
of what commonly takes place among rival states, 
or of such mutations and revolutions, as all human 
affairs are liable to, the history had been filled with 
a detail of wonders, and miracles, and prodigies of 
every kind. In ordinary cases, indeed, this would 
only affect the credit of the history, and not the 
evidence of its authorship. No one disputes the 
genuineness of Plutarch's Lives, though he appears 
to have believed in many improbable stories ; nor 
regards the history of Livy, as spurious, though it 
contains many incredible things. It is easy to dis- 
tinguish between the historian, and the facts which 
he relates; and to esteem the former at his true 
value, while we throw aside the latter, as mere 
examples of popular credulity. 

But this distinction cannot be made where events 
of a preternatural kind, form the groundwork of the 
narrative. If an account of the civil war, after the 
death of Julius Caesar, had come down to us, in which 
the successes and reverses of the different parties had 


been commonly made to turn upon miraculous inter- 
positions, instead of victories and defeats, either in 
council or in the field, — we should vainly produce proof 
of its genuineness. It would not be believed, even if 
it was ascribed to Cato of Utica. People would 
question the truth of this last assertion, and doubt 
its having been written by a contemporary ; or, if 
that were rendered certain, they would not, there- 
fore, credit the history itself, nor suppose that the 
defeat of Brutus and his party had been really occa- 
sioned by the visible manifestation of any diabolical 
agency. Whatever might be the authority or character 
of the historian, on whose testimony a supposition 
so improbable was to be supported, we should not 
trouble ourselves about the facts of the case, knowing 
that almost any explanation would be more probable 
than that they should have actually happened. 

But suppose it could be demonstrated, beyond 
all possible doubt or controversy, that the success of 
Augustus arose out of the belief of mankind, in the 
facts which we have been here assuming ; that this 
was capable of direct proof from the historians on all 
sides ; that it was alluded to in the letters of 
Cicero ; adverted to by Livy ; mentioned in Horace ; 
and in the next generation spoken of by Tacitus, 
and Suetonius, and Plutarch, as the foundation upon 
which the submission of the Roman people was 
originally yielded to Augustus, and was afterwards 
continued to his successors. On this supposition, the 
whole aspect of the argument is once more changed. 


We may now think as we jilease about the facts, but 
the veracity of the historian, by whom they were 
related, is freed from every suspicion. It is clear, that 
he has only recorded what he believed in common 
with all mankind. We may doubt his judgment and 
suspect their credulity; but we are no longer at 
liberty, on such ground, to question either the genu- 
ineness or the authenticity of the history ; neither to 
deny its having been written by the author to whom 
it has been ascribed, nor to disbelieve that he was a 
contemporary with the facts which he has related, 
and was speaking of them from his own knowledge. 

A question may still remain as to the reality of 
the facts believed ; that will depend upon the nature 
of them. If they were such as might have been 
taken from hearsay ; or if only two or three wit- 
nesses were cognizant of them ; or if they were not 
believed till many years after, — the solution would be 
easy enough. But if the contrary of all this was the 
case ; if they were transacted before many witnesses, 
and under circumstances which would make it im- 
possible for mankind to have been deceived in the 
matter of fact : then the events must really have 
happened. I do not say that they must have hap- 
pened in the way mankind may have supposed. We 
are not talking about the cause or true explanation 
of them, but only about what was witnessed by those 
who Mere present. What was seen by them, must 
really have happened, however weak or superstitious 
we suppose the conclusion M'hich was deduced. 


Let us now apply this reasoning to the books 
composing the New Testament. I will omit all 
supposition of divine inspiration, and regard them 
simply as the testimony of four writers, pretending 
to speak from their own knowledge, of the events 
which they relate. In like manner, we may put 
aside all inquiry as to the character of the writers. 
The question is not whether they were honest and 
sincere men ; — they might have been that, and yet 
as credulous as any of the multitude ; — but simply 
whether the documents in our possession were penned 
by them ; and, if so, whether they contain the same 
account of the life and actions of Christ, as was 
generally believed at the time, when we suppose 
them to have been recorded. If this question be 
answered in the affirmative, then whether the actions 
of Christ were the effect of human contrivance or 
not, it will be certain that they were performed. If 
the miracles ascribed to him were believed at Jeru- 
salem, and continued to be believed, on the testimony 
of those who witnessed them, by thousands and tens 
of thousands of mankind, living in the age when 
they were wrought ; if the Christian religion arose 
out of that belief, and has ever since been established 
upon it : — to call the credit of the historical books of 
the New Testament in question, (though we know 
the facts related in thcni to have been generally 
believed in the age when they are said to have hap- 
pened,) because they have asserted things which were 
believed to have been miraculous, — would indicate a 


confusion in our ideas as to the question properly in 

No doubt, if Thucydides had filled his history with 
such details as we meet with in the New Testament, 
we should at once have rejected his writings as 
spurious. His work professes to give an account of 
a war, which was carried on for nearly thirty years, 
between the rival states of Greece. A common oc- 
currence this, in which, therefore, we might reason- 
ably be surprised, if, instead of accounts of military 
achievements, the events described by him had re- 
lated to nothing but prodigies and miracles. But 
that which we expect to find on opening the New 
Testament is not the rise of a new empire in the 
world, but the rise of a new religion ; and one which 
mankind believe, and always have believed, to be a 
divine revelation. Now it is plain, that in this case, 
the belief of a miraculous narrative, true or false, 
constitutes the hypothesis of the argument. Sup- 
posing we had nothing in view, except to satisfy our 
curiosity, the very object of reading this history 
would be to know, what were the miracles on which 
the belief of Christ's divine authority was founded. 
If, on opening the volume for the first time, we were 
to find that the contents of it consisted of nothing 
but ordinary details, such as may be seen in every 
common biography ; and that instead of any pre- 
tended proofs of a divine authority, we found no 
evidence of this, but only wise and sublime precepts, 
the same as we learn in the writings of Socrates or 


Plato, — the reader \vould be, I think, uot a little 
surprised and confounded. 

The establishment of Christianity in the world is 
beyond any comparison the most important event 
recorded in the annals of mankind. And Avhether 
we regard its sudden appearance, or rapid propa- 
gation, or the incalculable influence Mhich it has 
exercised, — its existence in the world cannot be 
explained without, at least, supposing the opinion of 
a miraculous origin. If no traces of such an opinion, 
nor of any facts regarded as miraculous, had been 
recorded by the evangelists, such a circumstance, as 
it seems to me, would not have rendered their his- 
tory more probable, but quite the reverse. We may 
illustrate this by an example. 

The surface of the globe which we now inhabit, is 
covered, as every one is aware, with traces of the 
action of water. Marine productions are found upon 
the tops of mountains ; and remains of animals, such 
as are no longer to be met with, but which, when 
alive, must have dwelt in woods and forests, are found 
buried in rocks, at the depth of many feet below the 
surface of the earth. Even forests themselves are 
discovered in like circumstances. Su]ipose now that 
we Mere speaking of the causes of this great pheno- 
menon. Upon the principle of those who deny the 
authenticity of the books of the New Testament, 
because it contains an account of facts, such as we 
have never exjierienced, I should bo obliged to ex- 
plain these effects of a divine jiower, on a supj)osition 


that no causes had been in operation, except such as 
we are accustomed to witness. Were I to say that 
I considered the effects which we see, as indicating 
the occurrence, many ages since, of some great con- 
vulsion of nature ; some natural commotion witliin 
the bowels of the earth, which had subverted the 
whole frame of our material world : — On the princi- 
ple we are now speaking of, I should be stopped 
with the remark, that my supposition was contrary 
to experience ; that the laws of nature were uni- 
form ; that history had recorded no authentic in* 
stance of any such fact as I was supposing ; and that 
I must explain the phenomenon of the deluge on 
the customary relations of cause and effect ; for that 
any other explanation would be subversive of all 
that we know of natural philosophy. 

Every one must see how absurd such reasoning as 
this would be. Nevertheless, I am quite unable to 
perceive the difference between it, and that which 
would compel us to doubt the authenticity of the 
New Testament, or to disbelieve the facts which it 
contains, simply because they are contrary to our 
common experience. The deluge itself has not left 
more visible traces behind it, than has the preaching 
of Christ. And it would be as impossible to explain 
the present or past belief of mankind, in the divine 
authority which he claimed, without a supposition 
of miraculous evidence, real or pretended, — as to ex- 
plain the former event, without resorting to some 
supposition, which must involve the probability of a 


deviation, from what our experience tells us of the 
course of nature. Take from the New Testament 
every miraculous incident ; reduce it to a mere ac- 
count of our Saviour's sayings ; insert nothing but 
what might have been believed of any ordinary 
man ; — and it will then become improbable from 
the absence of those very particulars, the detail of 
which is the only reason why any persons have ever 
been found to question its authenticity : — just as a 
theory to explain the deluge would be improbable, 
which should propose to account for the pheno- 
menon, by the overflowing of rivers or a series of 
wet seasons, or by any cause or causes within the 
compass of our experience to demonstrate. 


We have seen the direct evidence on which the 
genuineness of the several writings comprised in the 
New Testament may be established. The next pro- 
position to be proved is, that the statement there 
contained is the same, as that believed by those who 
were living at the time, both in Jerusalem and else- 
where. If we are satisfied that the Evangelists have 
delivered a true account of facts, as they were gene- 
rally reported and believed at the time, their credit 
as histori.'uis is not to bo im])eache(l, because those 


facts are of a miraculous nature. Their duty, as 
historians, was to relate the grounds on which the 
belief of Christianity was built. If they have done 
this, the improbability of the facts may be a reason 
for denying the truth of Christianity ; but it is no 
reason for questioning the authority of the liistory. 

We have now then got upon different ground. 
The question no longer regards the authority of the 
writers of the New Testament, but the belief of 
those who lived at the time, and for whose use it 
was, in the first instance, written. This must be 
shown on testimony independent of the Evangelists 
themselves. But if it can be made clear, their 
veracity as historians will be established. 

With respect to the early Christians, I do not 
remember to have seen any question raised, as to 
their belief in the miracles attributed to Christ. 
They have been charged with credulity and ignorance; 
but these very charges are founded upon the suppo- 
sition of their having believed the story, which the 
Apostles and their immediate followers asserted. 
This inference, supposing the genuineness of the 
documents in our possession to have been proved, is 
implied in the very name of Christian. Their belief 
in the testimony of the Apostles would be certain, 
even if the four Gospels had not been written. 

In the absence of every argument, or presum])tion, 
and even of any recorded doubt, it will be sufficient 
to say that we have the direct evidence of the 
apostolical fathers, as well as of Justin Martyr, on 



this point. The former, indeed, supply us only with 
a general testimony; but there is not a single 
important circumstance related by the Evangelists, 
to which the latter does not refer. The miraculous 
birth of Christ, his curing all manner of diseases and 
infirmities, his raising the dead to life, are distinctly 
affirmed by Justin ; whose testimony is the more 
valuable on this point, that his language is not that of 
a man bearing witness to things which were disputed, 
but of one enforcing certain propositions, on the 
evidence of facts, tacitly assumed by him to be so 
notorious, as not to render necessary any thing more 
than a mere general allusion. Now Justin was a 
native of Samaria, and must have lived within a 
few miles of the spot on which Jerusalem had stood, 
until his conversion from Gentilism. His youth, 
therefore, must have been spent among those, who 
were not only the contemporaries of the Apostles, 
but who might, and in some instances probably had, 
both seen and heard them. 

It would be a waste of time to make a parade of 
quotations from the writings of later Fathers, in con- 
futation of an objection which has never been raised. 
I shall, therefore, after what has been said, assume 
that all the early disciples believed Christ to have 
performed miracles. This is not what we learn 
from the writings of the New Testament ; that 
which we learn from them, is the nature and cir- 
cumstances of the miracles, which he was supposed 
to have wrought. It is the names of the places, 


in which the several actions ascribed to him were 
performed ; who the persons were, whom he re- 
stored to sight; whose daughter it was, whom he 
raised from the dead; to whom he appeared after 
his resurrection ; in what manner he was put to 
death : — these and similar particulars we might have 
been in ignorance of; but for the history which has 
been left us by the Evangelists, our knowledge of 
what was believed would have been general ; but the 
belief itself, of Christ having done many wonderful 
acts, would be quite certain. Under these circum- 
stances the subject in debate is brought into a 
narrow compass. It is not whether our Saviour was 
believed to have been invested with miraculous 
powers of some sort : of this belief there is no doubt ; 
but only as I must again repeat, what were the 
miracles, truly or falsely attributed to him, by his 
followers ? This is the information which the Evan- 
gelists, speaking as eye-witnesses, profess to give. 
A person indeed may say, that he admits a belief in 
miracles of some kind or other, but not in miracles 
so extraordinary as those which the Evangelists have 
related. Such a way of thinking is, no doubt, intel- 
ligible ; but if it be seriously entertained, it should be 
supported by some specific proof. 

If indeed another history of the origin of Chris- 
tianity was extant, differing materially in particular 
details from that which is commonly received; or 
even if there was any other accredited hypothesis for 
explaining the original belief of mankind, without 



the intervention of any supposed miraculous evidence, 
then something might be gained in the argument, 
by refusing to admit the authenticity of the Gospel 
narrative. But in the absence of any counter-state- 
ment or hypothesis, to reject a contemporary account, 
and one which was believed both on the spot and 
elsewhere, except on some direct proof, or at least 
some colourable suspicion of misrepresentation, would 
be contrary to every principle of reason. 

In the present instance, this is not attempted. It 
is not even attempted to say, that any more probable 
account can be so much as invented. If any one 
thinks the contrary, let him sit down and try to 
compose a narrative, offering a more probable solu- 
tion of the success which Christianity met with in 
the world, than that which is presented to us in the 
pages of the New Testament : — he will soon perceive 
how little would be gained by considering these writ- 
ings to have been a fabrication, even if all the diffi- 
culties in the way of such a supposition were with- 
drawn. To suppose that idolatry was rooted out of the 
civilized part of the world, and a pure and peaceful 
religion, like that of Christ, planted in its room, by 
the belief of mankind in a set of facts, which, under 
the civil appellation of " pious frauds," were in truth 
neither more nor less than the mere conjuring tricks 
of a few obscure jugglers, living in Judea: — would 
be an explanation as little conformable with ex- 
perience, as any miracle could be. But supposing 
it to be oven true, it would not touch the innno- 


diate question. This regards the facts which were 
believed ; not the conclusions which were drawn 
from them, nor the opinion of mankind as to their 

But here it may perhaps be observed, that the 
belief of all mankind, in the account of the origin 
of Christianity which we have in the New Testament, 
has here been assumed as a postulate; whereas I 
ought only to have said that it was believed by a 
large number of persons living at Jerusalem, and in 
the country where the miracles are stated to have 
been wrought. The narrative itself contains an 
admission, that the larger number of those whom we 
suppose to have been witnesses in the case, did not 
join in that belief: Ought not, then, their incredulity 
to be placed in the opposite balance ? 

It ought not, and for this reason : that if we are 
to be guided by the testimony which the narrative 
of the Evangelists affords, the incredulity here 
spoken of, did not regard the facts themselves, but 
only the explanation of them. The very explana- 
tion which was proposed by the adverse witnesses 
presupposes the reality of the facts, and only ques- 
tions the nature of the authority from which they 
proceeded. If indeed it had appeared from the his- 
tory, that many who were present on the spot, or 
living at Jerusalem at the time, had never seen nor 
heard of the miracles, this would have been an in- 
surmountable objection ; but no such inference can 
be drawn from any passage in the Gospels ; on the 



contrary, the evidence there afforded, distinctly pre- 
sumes the facts to liave been notorious and uncon- 

The Jews did not at the time, so far as we have 
any means of judging, nor have they at any period, 
denied the truth of the facts related in the New 
Testament. The information which we possess, re- 
specting their opinions on the point, is but scanty ; 
but such as it is, the whole weight of it is in con- 
firmation of what we there read. 

The only allusion to Christ or his religion, which 
we find in the writings of Josephus, is so favourable 
to the Christian cause, that for this reason, (though 
for this reason only,) the passage in which it is con- 
tained, has been believed to be an interpolation. But 
if we expunge this passage, how are we to account 
for the silence of Josephus? He speaks of John 
the Baptist and of St. James, in terms which indi- 
cate no hostility to either; but, except in the in- 
stance alluded to, does not so much as even mention 
the name of Christ or his followers. It Avill hardly 
be thought that the omission was accidental ; and 
if it was by design, this admission is all that we 

In the Talmud, there are frequent allusions to the 
Nazarenes, but not any, I believe, to Jesus himself, 
or to his history. The earliest writing, in which 
these are distinctly noticed is, if I am not mistaken, 
a tract, i)ii))lishod l)y Wagenscil, entitled, " Sepher 
Toldoth Jesliu," (The Book of the Generation of 


Jesus). It is thought to have been a forgery of 
the thirteenth or fourteentli century, and is, there- 
fore of no value, except as showing that although 
the Jews, in the age in which it was composed, pos- 
sessed no account of Christianity pretending to au- 
thenticity ; yet that their traditional history of its 
Founder was the same in substance, that is to say, 
in respect of the leading facts, and of the mira- 
culous character of the actions ascribed to him, 
as we find in the New Testament. In this book, 
Christ is described, as having been a wicked ma- 
gician, who had stolen from the Holy of Holies, 
the Shem-hamphorash, or ineffable name of God ; 
by virtue of which, he performed a variety of ex- 
traordinary feats, some of which the author re- 
lates. They are too puerile to detail ; but it is im- 
portant to observe, that precisely the same account 
of the miracles of Christ, and of the means by which 
he performed them, is given by the Jew in Celsus, 
so early as the second century. Insane as the tra- 
dition is, yet it has its value, as showing that in the 
matter of fact, the miraculous powers ascribed to 
Christ were no part of the controversy between his 
first disciples and the JeMS ; and, indeed, never have 

It was not, we may believe, without meaning, that 
Maimonides, in his " More Nevochim," is at so much 
pains to explain, that miracles afford no proof of a 
divine testimony. Had such a course been open to 


him, it would better have answered his purpose to 
have contended, that only those of Moses were 
worthy of belief. But Orobio, in Limborch, dis- 
tinctly tells us, that the Jews never have taken 
up this ground of argument. He admits, that the 
evidence of the miraculous actions attributed to 
Christ is sufficient to satisfy a Christian ; but not, 
he contends, such as ought to convince a Jew : 
^*' Med saltern sententid satis boncB sunt et efficaces ut 
Christiani eas ampledantur^ et in sud fide roborentur ; 
non vero nt Judcei Christiani fiant, ut supra latins pro- 
haviir And the reason he gives for this distinction is 
one, which does not touch the question of the truth 
of the facts, but only their authority, as having 
been performed in opposition to the law of Moses ; 
which, in the opinion of the Jews, stood upon the 
supposition of miracles, greater in themselves than 
the Christian, and supported, as they assert, by 
equal or superior evidence. The truth, however, 
of the facts, which the Christians believe, he admits 
in pointed terms, on the part both of himself 
and his nation : " Non crediderunt Judcei^ non quia 
opera ilia, qua in Evangelio narrantur, a Jesu facta 
esse 7iegabant ; sed quia iis se persuaderi non sunt passiy 
ut Jesum crederent Messiam '." 

If we turn from the Jews to the heathen writers 
of the first and second centuries, there is not only 

' Limborch dc Verit. p. 132. 15(). 


the same absence of any counter-statement, but 
there is what amounts to an admission, that the 
facts related in the New Testament were believed. 

It is, perhaps, unfortunate for Christianity, that 
while so many apologies for it have come down to 
us from the early Fathers of the Church, the writ- 
ings against which they were directed, or which were 
jiut forth in reply, have either been lost through 
neglect, or destroyed through mistaken zeal. We 
possess, however, in the work of Origen against 
Celsus, a full knowledge of the line of argument 
which this last, a writer who must have been born 
in the early part of the second century, resorted to. 
" It is but a few years," says he, " since he (Jesus) 
delivered this doctrine, who is now worshipped by 
Christians as the Son of God^" This was the ab- 
surdity with which Celsus charged the Christians, 
namely, of offering divine worship to a person, who 
almost within the memory of individuals then alive, 
had been put to death by the public executioner. 
" Other persons," says he, " besides Christ, have per- 
formed miracles, — as Abarus, the Hyperborajan, who 
was able to overtake an arrow in its flight ; and 
Aristeas, who died twice and rose again ; and Clazo- 
menus, whose soul frequently wandered about the 
world, separate from his body : — and yet no one," he 
observes, " ever thought of therefore worshipping 
any of these as gods^" In another place Celsus 

' Lib. vii. § 34. ' Lib. i. § 3U. 33. 


adverts to the resurrection of Christ ; but instead of 
denying the fact itself, he only calls in question the 
nature of it, contending, that the by-standers were 
deceived, " for that it was a shadow, and not Christ 
himself, which they saw'." " Admit," says he, " that 
Christ really performed all the miracles ascribed to 
him by his followers, what conclusion can be drawn 
from this, except that he was conversant in those 
arts, by which, for a few pence, quacks and conjurors 
perform their wonders in every market-place"?" 

It is plain, from these extracts, that the difficulty 
which the first Christians had to contend against, 
in this part of the question, was totally different 
from ours. The adversaries of the Gospel in those 
days took exactly the contrary line of argument 
from that of modern unbelievers. Instead of main- 
taining that any deviation from the regular course of 
nature was incredible, and that no testimony could 
render such a fact worthy of belief, they argued 
that miracles furnished no evidence at all of divine 
power ; that they were of common occurrence, and 
could be performed by thousands, by means of arts 
which it was a disgrace to practise. Accordingly, 
they did not meet Christianity boldly and in front, 
by denying or disproving the facts, on which its 
authority was supposed by them to rest : the course 
they took was to set uj), what may ])e called, an 
opposition. Tlie wonderful actions ascribed to Christ, 

' Lih. i. § -23. ' § 68. 


they asserted to have been no more wonderful t 
the actions performed by Pythagoras and Apollonius 
Tyanaeus. This they demonstrated at length, by 
comparing miracle with miracle ; and then con- 
cluded, that as mankind had never dreamed of pay- 
ing divine honors to these illustrious men, merely on 
account of the surprising effects, which their superior 
knowledge of natural causes enabled them to ac- 
complish, it was contrary to all reason and common 
sense, on the part of the Christians, to maintain, on 
such grounds, the divine pretensions of one, whom 
they designated, an obscur Jew. 

It is, I think, very plain that this reasoning would 
never have been adopted by such men as Celsus and 
Porphyry, (the former of whom Origen directly 
charges with not crediting the fables which he ad- 
duces,) except the facts related in the New Testa- 
ment had been generally believed. And the way in 
which it is met by Origen and Tertullian, is also 
worthy of remark. For they do not deny tlie re- 
ality of the miracles said to have been wrought by 
Apollonius and others : (perhaps because it would 
have been of no use :) but they endeavour to shew, 
that there is no ground for attributing them to God. 
They ask their opponents to state what was the pur- 
pose for which they were Avrought; to point out 
any effects resulting from them — contrasting their 
barrenness in this respect, with the wonderful fruits 
which had been produced in the world, by the 


belief of mankind, in the miracles Avhich Christ per- 

The answer was surely just and solid. I may 
observe, however, that supposing the fables con- 
tained in the histories of Apollonius and Pythagoras, 
to have been believed by their contemporaries, from 
the beginning, it would have introduced a difficulty 
not to be surmounted. If eye-witnesses could have 
been appealed to, in testimony of occurrences so 
utterly absurd and impossible, as those to which 
Celsus and Porphyry advert, it would seem hard to 
devise any test, by which the truth of a matter of 
fact, either in present or past times, could be de- 

But it is scarcely necessary to say, that the his- 
tories I am alluding to, possess no claims to credit 
of any kind. The facts which are related in them, 
were never so much as heard of, in the age in which 
they are feigned to have happened, but were fabri- 
cated long after the events ; and seem to have ob- 
tained currency among the vulgar, simply on the 
ground, that if the Christian miracles were true, as 
does not seem to have been made a question, in 
that case, it was probable that others might be so 

And here it is not out of place to observe, that tlio 
very credulity of the heathens, as evidenced in the 
writings of Celsus and Porphyry, may be adduced 
in testimony of the universal credit, which the mi- 


racles related in the New Testament, must in their 
age, have obtained. Before the time of Christ, we 
hear little or nothing of magic itself, as an art or 
science, among the heathens, nor of the professors of 
it, as a body of men. But in the second century, 
as is evident from Lucian and Apuleius, it had 
become a regular trade ; and seems to have worked 
upon the imagination of mankind to a degree, which, 
but for the explanation afforded us in the history of 
Christianity, would be quite unintelligible. Suppos- 
ing, however, the facts there contained to have really 
happened, the result which I have spoken of, would 
be a natural consequence. Every person who ad- 
mitted the facts, but denied the conclusions drawn 
by the Christians, must almost of necessity have 
embraced a belief, in the efficacy of cabbalistical arts. 
If the same facts were again, even in this age of the 
world, to be transacted before our eyes, it seems to 
me, that the same persuasion would be generally 
created. Those who, like the Jews and Heathens, 
should refuse to believe in the reality of any pre- 
tended divine purpose, by which a miraculous inter- 
ference could be explained ; and yet were convinced, 
from the circumstances of the case, that they could 
not have been the effect of mere collusion, — would be 
compelled to conclude, either that evil spirits used 
the agency of certain individuals, or that certain 
individuals, by means of secret arts, were able to 
command the agency of evil spirits, for accomplishing 
objects not within the regular course of nature. 


Viewing the matter in this light, the cieduHty of 
mankind, in the age immediately succeeding that of 
the Apostles, instead of affording any presumptive 
arq:ument aijainst the realitv of the facts related in 
the New Testament, becomes, I say, an argument 
for believing them to have happened. I do not 
mean that it is an argument on which Me can rest 
any conclusion, not otherwise capable of proof; but 
assuming the genuineness of these writings, and that 
the facts were credited both by friends and enemies, 
in the age when they occurred, it may justly be con- 
tended, that the f>roneness to believe in superstitious 
arts, which marked the second century, was a con- 
sequence necessarily following from such a supposi- 
tion, and, therefore, corroborative of its truth. 

In what has hitherto been said, I have chiefly had 
in view to explain the external proofs of authenticity 
which belong to the historical parts of the New Tes- 
tament. But even supposing all external proofs to 
be lost ; that we knew nothing of the names of the 
writers, and that the documents in our profession 
had existed only in MSS. and had been recently 
brought to light, for the first time : yet the very 
comj)osition of the books is stamped with so many 
internal marks of a living authority, that it would 
not be impossible from them alone to demonstrate 
that the history was real ; and, moreover, that it 
had been composed in Jerusalem, by a Jew, who 
was relating facts, at some of whicli he must have 
been present. 


This is a large proposition, the full proof of which 
would embrace a very wide field of argument ; but I 
shall produce some examples of the kind of eyidence, 
to which I am now alluding". 


In examining the scheme of evidence, on which the 
plan of the Old Testament was projected, as deve- 
loped in a former part of this volume, the reader could 
not fail to have been struck with the exact adaptation 
of the narrative contained in the New Testament, to 
every one of the conditions, which the hypothesis of 
a preparatory dispensation would require. The de- 
gree of knowledge imparted to the Jews, and the 
degree of ignorance in which they were kept; the 
prophecies which were understood beforehand, and 
those which were not understood till afterwards ; the 
facts which had been predicted, and those which had 
not ; the nature of the expectation which had been 
created, and the limitations of it : — to every one of 
these points, the events which are related in the 
New Testament, were adjusted with a theoretical 
nicety, involving so many proofs of design, as to be 
more convincing to my own mind, than almost any 
merely historical evidence. So also with respect to 
St. Paul's Epistles. The very subject-matter of his 


arguments, the topics he does not dwell upon, no 
less than those he does, demonstrate their date. 
They could not have been written after the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem ; because after that event, the 
controversies in which he was engaged against the 
Jews, necessarily expired. 

The evidence, however, to which I referred at the 
end of the last chapter, when I said that it was 
possible to demonstrate the reality of the history 
which we read in the four Gospels, is not of this 
kind. It has no relation to any preceding dispensa- 
tion, but is strictly internal; such as we should 
be forced to admit, even if we knew nothing of 
the Old Testament, or of the belief of mankind in 
the New. Neither was I adverting merely to any 
general impression left upon the reader's mind, 
strong as this evidence may be ; but to an im- 
pression resulting from the composition and contents 
of specific passages. 

As these books purport to have been wTitten by 
eye-witnesses, and persons who were parties in the 
events described, it is plain, that if they are spurious, 
whatever air of truth the narrative may present, 
must have been the result of artifice and design. In 
a charge of literary forgery, it is mainly on the proof 
of this, that the force of the accusation depends. 
Demonstrate the absence of all design, and the charge 
of intended imposition foils to the ground. Now, 
although it is always difficult to prove a negative — to 
show that in what a writer has related, he did not 



design and premeditate any fraud or imposition — yet 
in the case of the New Testament, it may be made 
clear, I think, that the supposition of the narrative 
having been a mere invention, is rendered impossible 
by marks which cannot be mistaken. 

The reasoning which I am about to apply, wherever 
it can be employed, is much more conclusive than 
any extrinsic evidence, because it is direct, and 
deduced immediately from the contents of the 
writing. A remarkable example of its application 
will be found in Paley's "Horae Paulinse." This 
work is generally considered as the most original and 
characteristic of any of his writings. Indeed there 
are few compositions, in any language, more justly 
to be admired. As a specimen of forensic reasoning, 
it is unrivalled. 

In this book, Paley's proposition is, that between 
St. Paul's Epistles, and the history of his life, as 
related in the Acts of the Apostles, there are coin- 
cidences and agreements, of such a nature, as that if 
we suppose these writings to have been put into the 
hands of a critic, without comment or remark, and 
destitute of any extrinsic or collateral evidence what- 
ever, — yet it would be possible for him to show, that 
the " persons and transactions must have been real, 
the letters authentic, and the narration in the main 

His argument is, that there arc indirect allusions, 
remote coincidences and agreements, in these two 
works, too numerous as well as too particular to 


be accounted for, from chance. If the writings in 
which they occur, are supposed not to be genuine, 
then these allusions and coincidences must neces- 
sarily have been inserted by design. But the contrary 
of this is apparent : their undesignedness is a thing 
capable of demonstration ; and therefore by the 
terms of his argument, the reality of the history, 
and the authenticity of the letters, follow as a neces- 
sary consequence. 

The same argument has been taken up, with more 
or less success, by other writers, from a comparison 
of the four Gospels with each other, Avith the Acts 
and Epistles, and also with Josephus. I am about 
to illustrate it, from a source which, in the point of 
■view I am now speaking of, has not attracted atten- 
tion : I mean the Talmud. It is quite certain that 
the authors of the New Testament did not borrow 
from this work, because it was not compiled, until 
many years after the former must necessarily have 
been written. It is also as certain as any thing can 
be, that the compilers of the Talmud did not borrow 
from the New Testament. Any' coincidences there- 
fore to be found between these two books, must of 
necessity be undesigned. On the part of the Evan- 
gelists, the contrary supposition is impossible. 

I have more than once remarked, that in consi- 
dering the evidence of the authenticity of the New 
Testament, if we keep out of sight the importance 
attaching to its authority, as an inspired document ; 
(which is a matter regarding the doctrines of the 


Gospel, and not the reality of facts ;) its credibility 
does not depend upon the names of the authors, but 
upon our being able to show, that the facts which it 
contains were believed at the time, by those who 
must necessarily have known, if they did happen, 
and could not have been deceived, if they did not. 
Did the writers witness what they have related ? 
Was their account believed ? These are the ques- 
tions which it concerns us to answer. 

Now, when Justin Martyr refers to these writings, 
he does not speak of them as the compositions of 
Matthew, IMark, Luke, and John, (persons whos3 
names were probably unknown, except to Christians,) 
but as the " Memoirs," or " Commentaries of the 
Apostles and their followers," and which, he says, 
" were called Gospels." These " Memoirs of the 
Apostles, as well as the writings of the prophets, 
are read," he tells the emperor, " publicly every 
Lord's day, in the assemblies of the Christians ; and 
when the reader has ended, the president, according 
as the time allowed, makes a discourse, exhorting to 
the imitation of so excellent things." 

This passage was written not in the apostolic age, 
but in the age immediately succeeding ; and as it 
speaks of the practice referred to, as an established 
custom observed in all C!hristian assemblies, it is 
plain that the " Gospels," which Justin mentions, 
must at that time have been familiarly known. The 
question then is, Avere these " Memoirs," or " Com- 
mentaries," the same books as are now in our hands, 

G £f 


and which go under the same general name, as in 
the time of Justin ? The ready answer to this is, that 
the very words of our "Gospels" are quoted by Justin. 
But even if this decisive proof were away, and all 
other external proof, yet it may be shown from the 
contents of the books, that they are the " Commen- 
taries," or " Memoirs," of the " Apostles, or their fol- 
lowers," which Justin speaks of. Or, if this could not 
be shown, and we were obliged to take up lower 
ground (and the lowest ground will serve our present 
purpose as well as the highest,) it can be shown that 
the books in our hands were written by Jews at Jeru- 
salem ; and that the writers have recorded sayings 
and things, of which one of them, at least, (namely, 
the author of the first of the four Gospels,) must have 
been an eye and ear witness. 

It is a constant tradition in the Church, that St. 
Matthew's Gospel was written at Jerusalem, for the 
use of the Jewish Christians. The truth of this tra- 
dition is stamped upon every page of the work. 
That the other Gospels were not written for Jews 
alone, nor at Jerusalem, is evident ; because, when 
Jewish customs, or laws, or opinions, are alluded to, 
it is commonly with some explanatory phrases, such 
as, " for the Jews have a custom," or, " there is at 
Jerusalem ;" evidently indicating that the readers 
are supposed to be persons requiring to be informed 
on such points. But though such allusions are much 
more numerous in St. Matthew's Gospel, than in all 
the other three put together, yet he always assumes. 


on the part of his readers, a knowledge of all cir- 
cumstantial particulars, whether local or national. 

If this Gospel was the forgery of an age sub- 
sequent to the destruction of Jerusalem and the 
dispersion of the Jewish nation, this characteristic 
feature of St. Matthew's Gospel must evidently 
have been the effect of artijice and design. If it was 
not design^ (as I do not believe any one will suspect, 
after considering the passages I am about to adduce,) 
then it will come within the reasoning of Paley, in 
his " Horse Paulina?," — only substituting for " unde- 
signed coincidences" the words "undesigned allu- 
sions ;" and having in view, not so much the miracles 
of Christ, as his sayings. These, as well as many 
of the actions ascribed to Christ and to those about 
him, are related in connection with incidental details, 
that have often nothing to do with the main subject 
of the narrative, which alone was in the writer's 
thoughts. Here, therefore, it is that we must look 
(if we have any doubts or suspicions in our minds) 
for the sure, because unconscious traces of the true 
age in which the author wrote, and of the country 
to which he belonged. 

Any one who will read St. Matthew's Gospel, 
with the Talmudical Exercitations of Lightfoot or 
Schoettgen lying before him, will find in almost 
every page of the evangelist, instances of undesigned 
allusions, such as I have pointed out. I will begin 
with the Sermon on the Mount. And we shall 
better understand the force of some of the instances 



I shall adduce from it, if I preface tliem Avith two or 
three remarks of Lightfoot, on the Service of the 
Synagogue, which will at the same time directly 
illustrate the point before us. 

The first duty of the minister, or, as he was called, 
"the Anofcl of the Church," after the service had 
begun, was to call out seven readers, each of whom 
read out to the people a separate portion of Scripture. 
(This custom is indicated in St. Luke\ where Christ, 
being in the synagogue at Nazareth, on the Sabbath- 
day, " stood up for to read.") By the side of him 
that read the law was placed the. Targumist, or in- 
terpreter, who rendered what was read out of the 
Hebrew into the vernacular tongue, enlarging some- 
times on the text, in the way of paraphrase. This, 
together with prayers, formed the morning service. 
After dinner, the people returned to what may be 
called a lecture, in which one of their doctors ex- 
pounded, not the Scripture, but some traditional 
matter. Concerning this last part of the service, 
there are three particulars to be noticed. " He that 
read to the auditors," says Lightfoot, (quoting, as he 
always does, the words of the Midras/i, for every 
particular which he mentions,) "spake not out with 
an audible voice, but muttered it with a small 
whisper in somebody's ear, who pronounced it aloud 
to all the people." Another Jewish custom is men- 
tioned by Lightfoot, from the Talmud, where it is 

* Ch. iv. 16. 


said, that on the Sabbath-eve, the minister, or Angel 
of the Synagogue, " sounded a trumpet from the roof 
of a high house, that all might have notice of the 
coming in of the Sabbath." Now put these two 
particulars together, and we may understand that 
passage of St. JNIatthevv \ where Christ tells his 
disciples, " What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye 
on the housetops ;" but it is plain that the allusion 
must have been quite lost to any except a native of 
Jerusalem or Judea. The proof of this may be seen, 
by referring to the parallel place of St. Luke -, who, 
from not being acquainted with the particulars which 
Lightfoot has drawn from the Talmud, while giving 
the true meaning of the words of Christ, would seem 
to have overlooked, or not apprehended the form 
of expression which he employed. 

But my immediate object, in the above extracts 
from Lightfoot, was to point attention to that part, 
where we are told that it was the custom of the 
Jews, every Sabbath afternoon, to attend a lecture 
on some doctrinal point, drawn from the traditions 
of their doctors. We may remember that our 
Saviour very often introduces the precepts which 
he delivers, by contrasting them with the doctrines 
his hearers had before been taught ; saying, " Ye 
have heard that it hath been said of old," or "it 
hath been said ;" which are phrases, Lightfoot tells 
us, by which the Jews understood that some tradi- 

' Ch. X. 27. ' Ch. xii. 3. 


Hon was referred to. I should consider this by 
itself a strong internal mark, to shew that this 
Gospel was written, not for the use of Christians, 
as was plainly the case of the other Gospels, but 
of Jews. Nevertheless, in the case where the tra- 
ditions are referred to by name, as it were, and 
directly condemned, it is just possible to surmise 
(in a case where the authenticity of the history is 
in debate) that it was the effect of the art of the 
writer. But in the great majority of instances, no 
direct allusion to any contrary tradition is hinted 
at by St. ]\Iatthew. He gives the precept of 
Christ, but affords no intimation of any reflex ap- 
plication, such as I have mentioned, to particular 
doctrines and opinions in the minds of the hearers. 
That is left to be understood, as it would be, if 
those hearers were Jews. But so little was a 
knowledge of such application, on the part of the 
reader, a thing to be taken for granted, except on 
this supposition, that in nine instances out of ten, 
no penetration could have divined the fact ; nor 
should we now know it, except for the information 
which we are able to draw from the Talmud. This, 
I think, affords a proof of authenticity quite beyond 
suspicion, and such as not even the most practised 
author of forged documents would, or (except he 
had been a Jew) could have hit upon. 

Cases of this kind in St. Matthew's Gospel may 
be found in abundance. For example, our Lord 
says, " Whosoever shall break one of tJiese least 


commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be 
called the least in the kingdom of heaven ; but 
whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall 
be called great in the kingdom of heaven." The 
words of St. Matthew, we may observe, are not 
one of " the least of these commandments ;" but 
" one of these least commandments," twv toutwv 
Twv ikayjaTo)v. It Is plain, from the context, that 
by "these least commandments," our Saviour did 
not mean the commandments of the ceremonial law, 
but the commandments of the moral law. But 
then in what sense could he designate the last 
as "these least commandments?" By referring to 
Schoettgen's comment on the passage, it will appear 
that Christ was speaking according to the sense of 
his hearers, (who had been taught to speak of the 
moral precepts of the law, as the least command- 
ments,) and not according to his own sense of the 
words. It is evident, from the way in which the 
words occur, that something had gone before, which 
is not recorded by St. Matthew, and which is neces- 
sary to explain the meaning of the passage to us, 
but was not so to those for whom he was writing ; 
this also is an undesigned omission, strongly charac- 
teristic of a real transaction. 

Again, if we proceed two or three verses further 
on, in the Sermon on the Mount, our Saviour is 
made to say, " Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to 
the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother 
hath ought against thee ; leave there thy gift before 


the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy 
brother, and then come and offer thy gift'." The 
meaning of this is plain and unambiguous, and of 
general application. But the circumstantial part of 
the precept, about leaving the gift at the altar, is 
purely of Jewish obligation, and must have been 
delivered to Jews, or not delivered at all. It must 
also have been delivered in Judea, or at Jerusalem ; 
for no where else could the precept have been 
obeyed by a Jew. But what custom is it, the know- 
ledge of which is presupposed ? " If thou bring thy 
gift to the altar ;" — what gift ? what altar ? The Old 
Testament gives us no insight into this passage, and 
the context leaves us equally at a loss. But on 
referring to the Talmud, we discover an undesigned 
allusion to certain doctrines and observances of the 
Jews, which, being familiarly known to the hearers 
of Christ, were, for that reason, left unexplained by 
St. Matthew ; shewing that this discourse of Christ 
must have been actually delivered. It seems from 
Lightfoot, that the Hebrew lawyers speak much 
of the causes, which may justify a man in putting 
off the offering, which he w^as about to present 
at the altar. They are chiefly, the discovery of some 
blemish in the sacrifice, or some uncleanness in 
the votary. But our Saviour, with a tacit allusion 
to all this, as " what they had heard of old," states 
a new cause, and one not mentioned by their law- 

' Matt. V. 23. 


yers : namely, that if a person recollects in himself, 
not merely an uncleanness or outward unfitness, but 
that his brother hath aught against him, he is to 
delay his sacrifice until reconciliation be made. In 
this precept of Christ, there is internal evidence that 
it was delivered at Jerusalem to a company of Jews. 
But even if it was altogether a pure invention of 
St. Matthew, or whoever was the writer of the Gospel 
which passes under his name, it must have been the 
invention of a Jew living at Jerusalem. No one 
living at Rome or Antioch, or any where out of 
Judea, would have enjoined the circumstantial part 
of the precejit; or having done so, have left its 
meaning so obscure. 

As we proceed further in the discourse of our Lord, 
we find that almost every verse contains instances 
of the same kind as those just produced ; in which 
sayings are ascribed to Christ, founded upon ways of 
thinking among the Jews, which none but a Jew 
could know, and which are to us full of obscurity. 
But the reader feels, that it is an obscurity alto- 
gether occasioned by his own ignorance : — it is im- 
mediately cleared up upon obtaining a knowledge 
of the circumstances in which the saying was de- 
livered, and of the sense put upon it by the hearers. 
Sometimes the narrative supposes a previous con- 
versation or communication. Sometimes the neiffh- 
bourhood of a particular building, or a particular 
time of the year, or other incidental matter, not 
adverted to by the writer, must be supplied by 


the reader; and supplied from a knowledge derived 
from sources of information quite independent of 
the history, and to which it is quite certain, in the 
case of the Talmud, that the writer could not have 
had access. For example, in the 33rd verse, as in 
the 16th verse of the twenty-third chapter, men are 
forbidden by Christ to use any forms of adjuration. 
This is easily understood ; but why add, that they are 
not to swear by lieaven, nor by the earth, nor by 
their heads, nor by the temple, nor by the altar, nor 
by the gift that w'as upon the altar, nor by the city 
of Jerusalem, — except he was addressing persons 
to whom these forms of swearing were customary ? 
This is not expressed, but only implied. But if we 
look to Lisbtfoot, we find that all these oaths were 
frequent among the Jews ; and moreover, a quotation 
from Maimonides informs us of what St. Matthew 
omits, (probably as being understood,) viz. the occa- 
sion of our Saviour's admonition. " If any swear by 
heaven, by earth, by the sun, &c., although the mind 
of the swearer be, under these words to swear by 
Him who created them, yet this is not an oath. Or 
if any swear by some of the prophets, or by some of 
the books of Scripture, although the sense of the 
swearer be to swear by Ilim, who sent the prophet, 
or gave that book, nevertheless this is not an oath." 
— ^To the same purpose is the Midrash quoted by 
Lightfoot. R. Judah saith, " He that saith by Jeru- 
salem, saith nothing, unless with an intent purpose 
he shall vow towards Jesusalem." This was clearly 



the occasion of the precept, " Swear not at all ; but 
let your communication be yea, yea, nay, nay," — an 
occasion which must have been well understood by 
those who heard Christ, but which cannot be col- 
lected from the account, as given by St. Matthew. 

Again, what other people, except the Jewish, 
would require to be warned against praying in the 
corners of the streets ; or what Jew would have ex- 
posed himself to the ridicule of such an action, at 
Rome or Corinth, or any where except at Jerusalem, 
or some city of Judea ? That such a jiractice, how- 
ever, prevailed among the Jews, in the time of our 
Saviour, is plain from the extracts which Lightfoot 
produces. R. Johanna said, " I saw R. Jannai stand- 
ing and praying in the streets of Isippor, and 
going four cubits, and then praying the additionary 

It would be easy to increase the number of such 
quotations, which are to be found in almost every 
line of the Sermon upon the Mount ; and which, as 
it seems to me, not only show that our Lord's dis- 
course must have been a real discourse, but a dis- 
course not meant for readers but hearers ; and those 
hearers, Jews living at Jerusalem. But I will satisfy 
myself with one or more example from this parti- 
cular portion of St. Matthew's Gospel. The Sermon 
on the Mount concludes with these words — " It 
came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings, 
the people were astonished at his doctrine; for he 
taught them as one having atithcyrity, and not as the 


acribes.'' Now, how did the scribes teach, and what 
did the people here understand, when they said that 
Christ preached not like them, but as one having 
authority ? The answer to this question is not to be 
obtained from any passage, either of the Old or New 
Testament. But if we consult the Preface of Mai- 
monides to the Porta jNIosis, wherein he gives an 
account of the Mischnical and Talmudical doctors, 
the meaning becomes clear. We there learn, that 
the office of a Rabbi was, not to offer his own inter- 
pretations or opinions, that is, not to " speak as one 
having authority," but only to hand down the tradi- 
tion, which has been transmitted, as the Jews believe, 
from doctor to doctor, and from generation to gene- 
ration, through the men of the great synagogue up 
to the time of Moses, and down to Rabbi Jehuda, 
who compiled the INIischna. " Hillel taught truly," 
says the Talmud, " and according to the tradition, 
of the matter in question ; but although he dis- 
coursed of that question all day long, they received 
not his doctrine, until he said at last, ' So I heard 
from Shemata and Abtalion.' " From this passage it 
is plain, that when the people said, that " Christ 
spake not as the scribes, but as one having autho- 
rity," they meant, that he did not prove what he 
said, from the sayings of other teachers before him, 
but as one, who expected to be believed in his own 
risrht. If, however, St. Matthew, or whoever was 
the writer of his Gospel, had been ])utting into our 
Saviour's mouth a feigned discourse, instead of sim- 


ply recording one, which had been actually delivered, 
he would not have left the sense of a passage, in 
which he wished to show the impression it had pro- 
duced upon the minds of the hearers, wrapped up in 
an allusion so obscure, as not to be immediately 
obvious, perhaps even to a Jew, but which must have 
been quite impenetrable to every other reader. 

All the above instances have been taken from our 
Saviour's Sermon on the jNIount ; but there is 
scarcely a page in any part of this particular Gospel, 
from which examples to the same effect might not 
be produced : — examples clearly indicating, that our 
Saviour's sayings must have been real sayings ; and 
this, not from what our Saviour says, so much as 
from what he is made not to say. And I repeat, that 
unless this last kind of evidence can be convicted of 
design, it is the least fallible test of authenticity 
which any writing can exhibit. 

Examples to the same effect are to be found in 
that passage where St. Peter asks, " How often his 
brother was to sin against him, and he forgive him ?" 
As also where Christ is asked, " Which was the great 
commandment in the law?" And in another place, 
" Who is my neighbour ?" The historian does not 
say so, but all these were questions regularly mooted 
among the Jewish doctors. The same is to be ob- 
served where it is said, " Blessed are the poor in 
spirit" — " Blessed are the pure in heart,'' — " Not 
that which goeth into a man defileth him." Here 
also, as in passages without number, which wo find 


illustrated in Lightfoot, an allusion is made, though 
nowise indicated by St. Matthew, to opinions and 
doctrines, which our Saviour was tacitly refuting. 

The same may be said of particular words and 
phrases, some of which are Hebrew words with Greek 

terminations, as ayya^tveiv, cr/cavSaXi^ttv, titavia, and 

numerous others ; or else Hebrew idioms translated 
into Greek, or vulgar proverbs. All these may be 
set down, as equally indicating the Jewish original of 
this particular Gosi:)el of St. Matthew, and deter- 
mining the country in which it Avas composed. But 
I pass over these last marks of authenticity, 
which are numerous, because they have been often 
noticed, and do not fall in with our immediate 
argument. In any ordinary case, marks of this kind 
are considered as conclusive. Nevertheless, the last 
mentioned instances ma?/ be the result of pre- 
meditation : such a supposition is possible. But I 
am wishing to show, that there are marks of authen- 
ticity in St. Matthew's Gospel, such as do in fact 
exclude this supposition : in which the suspicion of 
design is all but impossible. JNIarks, too frequent 
and numerous to be the effect of chance ; and so 
slight and circuitous, so subtle and concealed, as to 
make the supposition of premeditation not at all 
more probable. There is, in fact, much more likeli- 
hood, in evidence of the nature we are now dwelling 
upon, of supposing an unconscious allusion in the 
writer's mind, when no such allusion existed ; than 
that an artifice so refined should, in any instance. 


have been purposely resorted to, with a view to 
impose upon his reader. 

A passage which carries the evidence of its genu- 
ineness along with it, in a very striking manner, is I 
think to 1)6 found, in the answer of Christ to the 
Pharisees, when they sought " to entrap him in his 
talk," by asking him " whether it were lawful to give 
tribute unto Csesar or not." The calmness and dignity 
of our Saviour's answer has been often remarked; 
but the true point of the question cannot be col- 
lected from the words of St. Matthew. Had our 
Saviour said it was lawful to give tribute to Csesar, 
he VFOuld have given a handle to the Pharisees to 
lower his authority with the people, among whom, as 
we learn both from the Talmud and from the Gospels 
themselves, such an opinion was unpopular. On the 
other hand, if he had denied the lawfulness of paying 
tribute to the Gentiles, he would have exposed him- 
self to the censure of the government. In his reply, 
he evaded both these difficulties ; but according to 
our notions it was no answer, properly speaking, to 
the question, but only an escape from the snare laid 
for him. But as addressed to the Pharisees, the 
answer had a signification which the words do not 
convey to our minds. Lightfoot tells us that it was 
one among the determinations of their schools, that 
" wheresoever the money of any king is current, there 
the inhabitants acknowledge that king for their lord. 
Hence," he goes on to say, " is that passage of the 
Jerus. Sanhedr. r. Abigail said to David, W/iat evil 


have I doncy or my soiis, or my cattle f He answered^ 
Your husbajid vilifies my kiiigdom. Are you theriy 
said she, a king f to which he replied. Did not Samuel 
anoint me for a king ? She replied, The money of 
our lord Saul is current ; that is, Is not Saul to be 
accounted king, while his money is still received 
commonly by us all?" It would seem, therefore, 
that our Saviour, in his reply to the Pharisees, not 
only avoided the snare which was laid for him, but 
made it dangerous for them to attempt any rejoin- 
der, lest they should retort their own dilemma upon 
themselves. They did not, accordingly, dare to ask 
for any explanation ; but " marvelled at his answer, 
and held their peace." They, at once, penetrated his 
meaning, as St. JNlatthew expected his readers to 
do. But if so, his readers must have been Jews. 
Even if we suppose the allusion to have been preme- 
ditated, for the purpose of dressing up his fiction in 
the colouring of reality, still none except Jewish 
readers could have been in his eye, since none but 
they would understand it. 

Similar in kind is another passage of St. Mat- 
thew's Gospel, which, like the last, has also been 
related both by St. JSIark and St. Luke, where our 
Saviour is described as coming to the temple, and 
" overthrowing the tables of the money-changers, and 
the seats of them who sold doves." Had the Apostle 
ended his account by telling us, that Christ " cast 
out, all tlioni that sold and bought in the temple," 
he would have satisfied all the purj)oses of the nana- 


tive ; but to what end does he go on to particularize 
" the money-changers " and their " tables ?" Who 
were the money-changers and the sellers of doves? 
We find an answer to this question in the Talmud, 
as quoted by Lightfoot in this place, from which 
we are sure that the circumstantial addition here 
appended to the history of this action of Christ, might 
have happened. But no one, not a Jew, could have 
invented it, without a knowledge of the Talmud. 
Even if we suppose the fact itself to be a fiction, yet 
it must have been the fiction of a Jew who had seen 
the temple of Jerusalem. To suppose the allusion to 
have been purposely thrown out by some one, who 
had been told of this particular desecration of the 
temple, while it was standing, is a very improbable 
and far-fetched explanation ; and which, if it were 
true, would prove that St. Matthew's Gospel must 
have been vvritten not to deceive heathens or 
strangers, but persons upon whom it would have 
been impossible, in that age, to impose a fictitious 

Let us take another example from Matt. viii. 22, 
where it is related that one of his disciples said unto 
him, " Suffer me first to go and bury my father. But 
Jesus said unto him, Follow me ; and let the dead 
bury their dead." The comment of Schoettgen 
shows that this also furnishes the case of an allu- 
sion which was understood at the time but not 
expressed. He informs us from the Talmud that 
according to the Jewish doctors, a man was bound 



only to observe one precept at a time ; and that the 
care of the dead superseded the obligation of attend- 
ing to any other precept. The man in the above 
passage, therefore, was speaking as a Jew, when he 
besought Christ to allow him first to go and bury his 
father. Our Saviour in his answer is not to be mis- 
understood, as if he meant to treat this duty slightly, 
but only to signify, that xhe first duty was, to be his 
disciple ; and that if any other duty was incompatible 
with this, it was that other, which was to give way. 
By the "dead" who were to bury their dead, is meant 
the " mourners," who, it appears from the Talmud, 
were so called by the Jews. The precept here signi- 
fied by Christ, does not differ from another frequently 
inculcated by him, — that whosoever loves father or 
mother, or friends, or houses, or any other good, 
more than him, is not worthy of him ; but how many 
circumstances are left to be filled up, before the full 
application of it, in the particular case, can be made 

There is no parable in the New Testament more 
difficult to explain satisfactorily than that of the 
unjust Steward, of which the moral is, that " we are 
to make to ourselves friends of the mammon of 
unrighteousness, that when we fail, they may receive 
us into everlasting habitations." The meaning would 
seem to be, — However you may misapply your riches 
in other respects, however you may waste God's 
good gifts, yet at least make the poor your friends, 
by showing mercy and favour to thorn in this world, 


in order that God, for their sake, may show tlie like 
to you in the world to come. This seems to be the 
instruction of the parable ; it is made up, however, of 
ideas and notions so foreign to our ways of thinking", 
that its meaning is not free from obscurity. But pro- 
bably it was quite otherwise, to those before whom it 
was spoken, as the following explanation drawn by 
Schoettgen from the Talmud will partly evince. " The 
children of this world," said the Rabbins, " who study 
only the things of this world, have their portion also 
in this world : the children of the world to come, who 
study the things of the next world, have their portion 
in the world to come." The rich, therefore, having 
their portion in this world, were considered by the 
Jews as the children of this world ; the poor, by the 
contrary reason, as the children of the world to come. 
Accordingly R. Samuel Ben David tells us, " th^t he 
had written for the rich, and for the poor. For the 
poor, that the rich might be induced to assist them 
in this world ; for the rich, that the poor might show 
them like pity and compassion in the world to come. 
For the one," says he, " stands in need of the other. 
The poor need the rich in this world ; the rich need 
the poor in the world to come." 

If we were jiroposing merely to show how much 
light might be thrown upon the sense of the New 
Testament by a reference to the Jewish writings, in- 
stances such as the last quoted, might be produced 
to almost any extent. And they would abundantly 
prove that the New Testament must have had a 

II h 2 


Jewish origin ; and that to understand fully the 
import of many parts of it, a knowledge of Jewish 
customs and opinions, and forms of speech, is re- 
quired. This fact alone would afford a strong pre- 
sumptive argument in proof of its authenticity, and 
almost demonstrate a Jewish origin. But it has 
been my wish, in the preceding remarks, to adduce 
evidence showing, that St. INIatthew's Gospel must 
have been the production, not merely of a Jew, not 
merely of a person relating real transactions, but of 
one who must have been a witness of what he re- 
lates; and who was recording sayings, stamped with 
so many internal marks of oral delivery, as no writer 
who was composing from imagination, and not from 
memory, could have fallen ujion by accident, or have 
invented through design. Taken singly, the pas- 
sages produced may perhaps not yield a demonstra- 
tion of this proposition ; but in the whole collective 
amount of their evidence, they warrant this conclu- 
sion, almost as certainly as the proofs which Paley 
has adduced to the same effect, in his Hora? Pau- 
linffi. relative to the authenticity of the Acts of the 
Apostles. Any apparent difference between the two 
cases, is more in the skill with which he has man- 
aged the argument, than in the greater probability 
of his proofs. 



Having shown, that the writings of the New Testa- 
ment possess all the evidence of genuineness and 
authenticity, both external and internal, which can 
be exhibited by any historical document relating to 
events, which happened many hundred years ago : — 
that is to say, that they were written in the age 
when the events took place, by individuals, some of 
whom, there is reason to believe, must have been 
present at the transactions which they have de- 
scribed, and all of whom profess to have been per- 
sonally cognizant of their truth ; having shown more- 
over that they were believed, as far as we know, not 
by the writers only, but generally ; and that the 
proof of these propositions is evidenced not merely 
by direct testimony, but by the effects produced 
by this belief, in the age when the events happened, 
and which effects are still apparent : — it would seem 
that in this part of the argument, the defence of 
Christianity was complete. Except it can be shown, 
that the books were not M'ritten by those whose 
names they bear, or by any contemporary authority, 
nor believed generally at the time, we have a full 
right to assume the reality of the history which they 
contain. The evidence produced is the same in 
kind, as that on which all other historical facts are 
believed. It is immeasurably superior in quality, to 


what can be produced in support of any besides. 
Under these circumstances, by every rule of argu- 
ment, the burthen of proof rests with those who call 
its truth in question. 

We shall, however, in vain look for the proof of 
any such adverse evidence, in the writings of those, 
who reject that which has here been under our con- 
sideration. Those who assert the credibility of the 
facts related in the New Testament, are in the 
situation of persons having to defend a cause against 
parties who, to use a legal phrase, refuse to put in 
their plea ; — and a very material disadvantage it is. 
x\ grave and sincere statement of the difficulties, 
which attend the hypothesis of a divine revelation 
in general, or of the particular objections which pre- 
sent themselves against the Christian, is a desidera- 
tum in theology, the want of which renders it im- 
possible to lay down any data, which an adversary 
can be compelled to abide by ; the premises he com- 
monly argues from, being so vague and general, 
as hardly to come within the rules of legitimate 

I will take my example from Hume's "Essay 
upon Miracles," a principal merit of which is, that 
he does not entirely involve himself in generalities, 
but risks a partial exposure to the shafts of an oppo- 
nent. In this essay his object is, to show that mi- 
racles cannot be made credible on human testimony. 
Now as it is certain that they have been made credi- 
ble, according t<> common ai)itrehension : (for other- 


wise his argument would have been superfluous :) 
the question is, what was the testimony or evidence 
or reason, call it what we please, on which the belief 
in the Christian miracles was built ? The belief of 
mankind is a fact which cannot be doubted: how 
then does he explain its rise ? 

He tells us that in ordinary cases mankind exert 
their judgment, but not wlien the facts are very 
extraordinary. " We readily," says he, " reject any 
fact which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary 
degree ; yet in advancing farther, the mind observes 
not always the same rule ; but when any thing is 
affirmed utterly absurd or miraculous, it rather the 
more readily admits of such a fact, upon account of 
that very circumstance, which ought to destroy all 
its authority. The passion of surprise and wonder, 
arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, 
gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those 
events, from which it is derived. And this goes so 
far, that even those who cannot enjoy this pleasure 
immediately, nor can believe those miraculous events, 
of which they are informed, yet love to partake of 
the satisfaction at second-hand, or by rebound, and 
place a pride and delight in exciting the admiration 
of others." 

This is a general truth, applicable, it would seem, 
to all cases, and to all mankind, whether wise or 
unwise. He then goes on to apply it to the par- 
ticular case of the Christian miracles. " But," con- 
tinues he, " if the spirit of religion join itself to the 


love of wonder, there is an end of common sense ; 
and human testimony, in these circumstances, loses 
all pretensions to authority. A religionist may be 
an enthusiast, and imagine he sees what has no re- 
ality. He may know his narrative to be false, and 
yet persevere in it, with the best intentions in the 
world, for the sake of promoting- so holy a cause : 
or even where this delusion has not place, vanity, 
excited by so strong a temptation, operates on him 
more powerfully than on the rest of mankind in 
any other circumstances ; and self-interest with equal 
force. His auditors may not have, and commonly 
have not, sufficient judgment to canvass his evidence. 
What judgment they have, they renounce on prin- 
ciple, in these sublime and mysterious subjects. Or 
if they were willing to employ it, passion and a 
heated imagination disturb the regularity of its ope- 
rations. Their credulity increases his impudence ; 
and his impudence overpowers their credulity." 

Now, how is it possible, I would ask, to deal with 
such reasoning as this ? Whether the facts related 
in the New Testament be true or false, whether the 
writers were honest or dishonest, whether their nar- 
rative was believed by the disciples of Christ only, 
or by the Jews as well, it will still be certain that 
mankind are prone to self-delusion, that knaves will 
practise frauds, and fools believe them. But it is 
no less true, that such general reflections are not 
general truths ; they will not apjily to all individual?^. 
Tt is not probable that Hume means to say, that the 


people of Jerusalem had not eyes and ears, or that 
they dreamed, what they supposed they saw and 
heard. If not, what becomes of his argument ? For 
if what he says is true only of certain individuals, 
under particular circumstances, and not always true, 
it is plain that his reasoning cannot be employed 
'pendente lite, without assuming the question. 

It would be deemed a poor style of reasoning in 
the mouth of one who believed in Christianity, to 
say, — " But if a scoffing spirit join itself to the love 
of singularity, there is an end of common sense. A 
philosopher may be self-o]3inionated, and imagine he 
sees proofs which have no reality ; he may know his 
argument to be false, and yet persevere in it, with 
the best intentions in the world, — or even where 
this temptation has not place, vanity operates on a 
philosopher, more powerfully than on the rest of 
mankind, and interest with equal force ; his readers," 
— and so on. If such language as this was to be put 
forward under the name of argument, and by way 
of confuting the adversaries of revelation, it is likely 
that Hume would treat it with the contempt it would 
deserve. And yet, we may take upon us to say, it 
would be quite as sound logic in itself, and quite as 
much to the point, as the reasoning employed by him 
to explain the origin and present belief of Chris- 
tianity in the world. 

But omitting all notice of what is mere idle talk 
and not argument, and directing our attention to 
that part of Hume's explanation, which has any rela- 


tioii to the real facts of the case, it would seem that 
he assumes the behef of mankind in the truth of 
Christianity from the beginning, but ascribes it to 
two causes. " It arose," says he, " in fraud and 
imposture, and was propagated from the agreeable- 
ness of the emotions of surprise and wonder." The 
position on which he builds his explanation is, that 
though mankind " readily reject any fact which is 
unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree," unless 
the proper proof is adduced ; yet that, " when any 
thing is affirmed, which is utterly absurd and miracu- 
lous," the pleasure of the emotions which it excites, 
causes it to be believed without any evidence at all. 

This seems to be a whimsical sort of hypothesis, 
to account for an event of such very grave import- 
ance to mankind, as the establishment of Christianity 
has always been accounted even by the mere histo- 
rian. The truth of it, however, is at once assumed 
by Hume, as a matter not to be doubted ; whether 
rightly or not, is unimportant ; because, I think, there 
is direct proof to show, that however satisfactorily it 
might account for the belief of mankind in various 
absurd tales, which have sometimes obtained credit, 
for a time, we must yet resort to some other expla- 
nation of their belief in the facts, whether absurd or 
not, which are repeated in the New Testament. 

And first, for the allegation of fraud. This charge, 
if true, must of course be fixed upon Christ himself 
Now we have seen in a former part of the volume, 
that, as applied to him, it is not merely in a high 


degree improbable, but that it is impossible. To 
render such an accusation intelligible, it must be 
shown that the whole story of his death was a fabri- 
cation, invented to exclude such a notion. But it is 
unnecessary to do more than advert to the point. 
This part of Hume's theory relates to the supposed 
cause of the miraculous facts which mankind were 
prevailed upon to believe, whereas, we are at present 
considering only the effects. It is plain, however, 
that Hume meant not only to say, that the effects 
in question were not miraculous, but that they were 
not real ; that they never happened ; that what the 
Evangelists describe as having been seen and heard 
by many hundreds, was not really seen or heard by 
any one. 

Now that the events related of Christ were be- 
lieved by all his disciples, and that we have no 
evidence to show that they were denied even by his 
enemies, is as certain as any fact in history can be. 
The question, therefore, is, — Could many hundreds 
and thousands of persons, living in and about Jeru- 
salem, have been made to believe that such facts as 
the Evangelists have related, had taken place under 
their eyes, or in their immediate neighbourhood, 
supposing no other foundation for their belief than 
the mere assertions of Christ, and some dozen indi- 
viduals, his immediate followers ? The answer will 
depend, in a material degree, upon the nature of the 
facts. Were they seen only by two or three ? Were 
they exhibited in a room, to a select number of per- 


sons ? Were they such, as supposing them not to 
have happened, could not be disproved ? Did those, 
who were immediately concerned, give proofs of their 
honesty and sincerity ? Had they any interest to 
serve ? — All these and many other questions there 
are, which will occur to every one who reads the 
New Testament, and which a child may answer. 
But it is not necessary to enter upon details of this 
kind : the proposition on which Hume's reasoning is 
based, refers not to any circumstantial inconsistencies 
or difficulties. The upshot of his opinion is, not that 
mankind did not from the beginning believe the 
miracles of Christ, but that those who did so, in- 
stituted no inquiry as to the truth of tlie facts, but 
admitted them at once, from the love of the mar- 
vellous, on the mere report of persons who were 
interested to deceive them. 

Now, as it is always difficult to prove negative 
propositions, it is likely we may not succeed in de- 
momtratim), that the first Christians did not act in 
the manner here described. But so far as probable 
arguments may be depended on, I think the con- 
trary proposition is as capable of proof, as any histo- 
rical inference can be. 

It would be absurd to maintain, that a story is 
always to be believed, however marvellous, provided 
a large number of persons, living at the time when it 
is said to have happened, had agreed to think it true; 
because, as every one must have observed, it costs 
most people but little, to believe any thin;>- which 


falls in with their interest, or their wishes, or their 
previous habits of thinking. But the same expe- 
rience of human nature, on which this observation is 
founded, also teaches us, that mankind are equally 
unwilling, and for the like reason, to receive even 
the most demonstrable truths, if they are in any way 
opposed to their prejudices. This proposition may 
safely be predicated, in one degree or another, of 
every individual, as well as of mankind in general; 
but in the case of Christianity we have the warrant of 
the largest experience for the assertion. The history 
of modern missions has shown that there is nothing 
in the world more difficult than to persuade a people 
to renounce the religion in which they were born 
and educated, however monstrous or absurd its 
tenets ; and this, even in the case where external 
motives would seem to unite, in recommendation of a 
more rational belief. If then the contrary of this 
w^as experienced to be the fact by the Apostles, as 
Hume's supposition evidently implies, what reason 
can he assign for their case, being an exception to 
the rule ? The proneness of mankind to superstition, 
their love of the marvellous, are the same: — the truths 
of Christianity, as has before been observed, are the 
same. Where then is the difference, except in this 
important point : that in the present day those evi- 
dences and arguments are matters of history, and 
themselves require to be proved ; whereas, in the 
days of the Apostles, they were matters of public 


notoriety, and such as every man might know to be 
true or false, on his own personal knowledge ? 

It may perhaps be contended, tliat easy as it 
would have been for the early Christians to obtain 
the best evidence, yet they were satisfied with mere 
hearsay and report. But this ought to be shown, 
for the presumption lies the other way. Why is 
Hume to assume, in the face of all that we know of 
the principles of human nature, that mankind, two 
thousand years ago, were willing to abandon all the 
prejudices of every kind in which they had been born 
and educated, — in defiance too of every intelligible 
motive, whether of influence, or interest, or ease, — 
for the sake of a set of opinions, about the truth or 
falsehood of which, he supposes them at the same 
time to have been so indifferent, as not to have 
thought it worth while, even to institute any inquiry? 

The supposition seems to me at variance, not only 
with every stated principle of the human mind, but 
I should say that it was directly contradicted in the 
particular case of Christianity, by all the facts which 
history has preserved relative to its first propagation. 
And here, I am not speaking of the marvellous rapi- 
dity with which it spread throughout the world : — a 
point which I have already had occasion to dwell upon 
more particularly : — I am speaking of the conduct 
of the first disciples of the Gospel ; of their actions 
and whole behaviour, under the influence of the new 
opinions in religion, which they had embraced with 


SO much zeal and eagerness. The account which 
history has given us, not only of the sufferings, but 
of the character of the first Christians, is not to be 
reconciled with an explanation, founded on the 
supposition of their having taken up those opinions, 
from no other motive than vulgar credulity or mere 
levity of mind. 

It is true, that when men have been taught from 
their earliest youth to acquiesce in certain systems of 
opinion, possession of the mind becomes law, and 
long prescription stands in the place of reason and 
evidence. But the contrary effect evidently happens 
in the case of new modes of belief. Here the weight 
presses on the other side ; and if overbalanced at all, 
it must be by proofs and motives of some kind. But 
Hume will tell us that the love of the marvellous is 
also a principle of the human mind, and will likewise 
sometimes stand in the place of reason and evidence, 
and even of prescription. If so, it has always been 
a part of human nature ; and yet I know of no 
example in history, if we except Christianity, where 
it has effected any sudden and sensible revolution or 
alteration in the conduct and opinions of mankind. 
I do not understand how it could perform this, even 
in the case of a single individual. It hardly sounds 
like common sense to say, that a man suffered death 
and torture patiently, or that he renounced all the 
opinions of his youth, or that he changed the prin- 
ciples of his conduct, from a love of the marvellous. 
His mind and modes of thinking may have been 


biassed by the love of the marvellous, but not radi- 
cally changed. This effect clearly supposes other and 
more powerful motives ; the operation of some prin- 
ciple of belief distinct from mere popular persuasion ; 
and which, even if founded in error, must yet have 
rooted itself in some more deeply seated instinct of 
the mind, than a mere proneness to believe in what 
is wonderful and supernatural. 

The distinction which I am here pointing out 
seems to have been observed by those who watched 
the first rise of Christianity. " It is written," says 
Justin, " that God at first gave the sun for mankind 
to adore ; yet no one was ever found that would 
submit to die for his belief in the sun. But we may 
see many in every rank of men, who, on account of 
the name of Jesus, have borne every extremity of 
suffering, and are still willing to bear it, rather than 
deny their faith in him." 

It is mentioned by Pliny the Younger, in his cele- 
brated letter to Trajan, to which I formerly referred, 
and in which he consults the emperor, about the 
measures which he was to take, for repressing the 
spreading of Christianity in his province, that he had 
called before him two servant-maids, and had put 
them to the torture without success, in order to com- 
pel them to worship in the temples of the gods, and 
to revile the name of Christ. It will not, perhaps, be 
risking too much to affirm, that if, instead of being 
deaconesses in the Christian Church, they had been 
two ])riestcsses of Isis or Osiris, Pliny would have 


been spared the disgrace of having resorted to so 
harsh an extremity. 

To the same effect we might adduce the conduct 
of Socrates before the court of Areopagus, as de- 
scribed by Xenophon and Plato, when he was called 
upon to clear himself from the charge of having 
treated with contempt the worship of the Athenian 
gods. His opinion on the subject of the heathen 
deities needs not to be stated ; but did Socrates 
maintain his opinion before his judges ? Far from it ; 
as indeed why should he ? To have died for the 
truth of a mere philosophical speculation, would have 
been even more romantic than to have died for " a 
belief in the sun." 

The reason of the difference, in the cases here 
mentioned, is easily explained ; but it strongly marks 
the fact which I have stated, of the distinction there 
is between a philosophical conclusion, or a mere 
popular persuasion, and the reality which the first 
Christians ascribed to their opinions. And I may 
add, that not only Justin was struck with the con- 
trast, but it made the same impression, at the time, 
upon the heathens also. " Is it possible," says 
Epictetus, speaking of the trust which men ought 
to repose in Divine Providence, " that a man may 
becbme indifferent to the menaces and power of a 
tyrant, from madness or habit, like the Galileans, 
and yet that no one should have learned this intre- 
pidity of mind, from reason and from the demonstra- 
tion, that God is the ruler of the world ?" 

I i 


I do not adduce the persecutions, which it is well 
known that the first Christians endured, from the 
very beginning, on account of their religion, as a 
proof, that the belief for which they suffered, was 
true ; but only as a presumption, that there must have 
been some stronger feeling at the bottom of their 
belief, than a mere abstract love of the marvellous. 
And to this point, there is in Pliny's letter a more 
decisive testimony, than even the sufferings and per- 
secutions to which so large a multitude of persons 
in his province submitted ; and that is the remark- 
able effect which their belief, as he describes it, pro- 
duced upon their outward conduct. 

Pliny tells the emperor of "the contumacy and 
inflexible obstinacy" of those whom he had sum- 
moned before him. Now, although mankind will 
resist tyranny and injustice, from what oppressive 
rulers designate obstinacy, and which in one sense 
is so, yet they do not become just and temperate 
from mere obstinacy, any more than from the love 
of the marvellous. Yet to this effect of Christianity, 
Pliny speaks in distinct terms. The religion itself 
he describes as a " degraded superstition ;" but of 
the behaviour of its followers, he says, that he had 
been able to discover nothing particular, except 
" that they were wont to meet together on a stated 
day, before it was light, and sing among themselves, 
alternately, a hymn to Christ as God ; binding them- 
selves by a vow not to be guilty of theft, or robbery, 
or adultery ; never to falsify their word, nor to deny 


a pledge committed to them, when called upon to 
restore it." 

This last effect, here stated on the testimony of an 
enemy, though it may not strike the imagination so 
forcibly, as the sufferings endured by the first Chris- 
tians, is yet in reality a far more unequivocal proof 
of the depth and earnestness of their conviction in 
the reality of their belief Mankind did not hear 
for the first time, from the preaching of the Apostles, 
that they were not to rob, or cheat, or falsify their 
word, or violate the trust reposed in them. These 
duties had always been inculcated in the books of 
philosophers, and enforced by the laws of every 
civilized people. Yet it seems from the above quo- 
tation, that the reasons of the Apostles had been 
more effective, than either the persuasions of moral- 
ists or the threatenings of the magistrate. With 
how little effect the former had been attended, we 
learn on high authority. " I know not how it is," 
says Plato, in the Epinomis, " but it seems to me, 
that all other kinds of learning may be taught man- 
kind, without much difficulty: — that which it is so 
difficult to find out, is the way by which they may 
be taught to be good and honest." The same senti- 
ment, in very similar words, is expressed by Cicero, 
in his first Tusculan, as being the result also of his 
observation and experience. 

Here then we have an undoubted fact. What 
neither Pythagoras, nor Socrates, nor Plato, had been 

li 2 


able to accomplish in many hundred years, (for their 
disciples bound themselves by no vows to observe 
the duties they had been taught,) was effected in 
the course of a single generation by the Founder of 
Christianity, without aid from learning, or rank, or 
power, or eloquence, or party ; — only by the belief, so 
far as we can know or conjecture, which he impressed 
upon his followers, of his having been sent from God. 
" How did it happen," says Origen to Celsus, who 
had taunted the Christians with the recency of their 
faith, " that in so few years, so many both of the 
learned and unlearned had been brought to embrace 
it; and not to embrace it as a mere speculative 
truth, but to be willing to lay down their lives rather 
than renounce it ? A physician," he goes on to say, 
" cannot restore a sick man to health without God's 
permission ; but to reclaim a man from sin of every 
kind, from lust, from sensuality, from cruelty, from 
fraud, is a much more difficult task, as any man may 
know who tries it, than to cure him of bodily ail- 
ments. Now had Christ reclaimed only a hundred 
l)ersons by the strength of his doctrine, it would have 
been an extraordinary thing; but to have reclaimed 
thousands and tens of thousands, both Greeks and 
Barbarians, both rich and j)oor. both wise and igno- 
rant, from the wickedness in which they were living; 
and to have brought them to a life of holiness and 
virtue, is surely as strong an argument of divine 
jiowor as can be given. He who considers this," 


Origen concludes with observing, " will see that 
Jesus undertook a more than human task, and what 
he undertook, he accomplished." 

I do not ask an adversary to explain the fact here 
adduced, (and the truth of which is confirmed by the 
statement of Pliny,) on the principle which Origen has 
stated. But I do feel inclined to think, that the 
more we reflect upon the fact, the more reason we 
shall see for admitting, that it cannot be explained 
on the principle which has been advanced by Hume. 
Mankind, under certain circumstances, and on cer- 
tain subjects, easily turn from one set of opinions 
to another ; but, as I before observed, they do not 
readily change their habits of thinking, or their modes 
and principles of acting. And to suppose that an in- 
finite multitude of persons, — in different parts of the 
world, — speaking different languages, — and educated 
in different customs, — should suddenly and at the 
same time, have all consented (for such is a statement 
of the fact) to adopt not only new ways of reasoning 
and believing, but of feeling and acting, from the 
report of facts happening almost at their door, which, 
however, they had never taken the trouble to ex- 
amine, and which they had no motive for believing, 
except that they were apparently very surprising ; — 
this, I cannot help saying, does seem to me as im- 
probable an explanation of the first rise of the belief 
of Christianity in the, world, as I can well conceive. 
Nor do I see that the question need be farther pro- 
secuted by the friends of Christianity. A confession 


on the part of its adversaries, that their argument 
demands a supposition like this to rest upon, is all 
the acknowledgment that we ought to desire. 

Let it be remembered, that the facts related in 
the New Testament are not transactions said to have 
happened in the moon, or in a dream, or at the siege 
of Troy. It was a history easy to be verified on the 
testimony of enemies, as well as of friends ; occur- 
ing on the very threshold of the generation in which 
Pliny and Justin lived ; endorsed with the names 
of persons and places well known to every one ; 
pinned down by dates and a minute specification of 
circumstances. The subject was not a light subject, 
but one of the gravest importance. The facts were 
in the highest degree extraordinary, if true ; and 
even if untrue, hardly less extraordinary, owing to 
the effects, which the opinion of their truth produced 
upon the public mind ; emptying the heathen tem- 
ples, as Pliny informs Trajan, and putting an end 
to the sacrifices offered to the gods, even in the re- 
mote provinces of the empire. Every thing invited 
to discussion and inquiry ; and the more so, because 
no learning was then required, nor any troublesome 
research : the old had only to remember what they 
had been told by eye-witnesses, and the young to 
listen, while the same was related to them by the old. 
There is preserved in Eusebius, a passage from a 
writing by one, who is believed to have been a hearer 
of St. John the Evangelist, which paints this in 
lively language. It is taken from a work that has 


been lost, entitled, " An Explication of the Words 
of the Lord," and was probably composed just at 
this period. There can be no question about the 
authenticity of the extract, for it is also quoted by 
Irenseus ; and it is produced by Eusebius, not in 
proof of any argument, but simply to show, that 
John the Presbyter and John the Evangelist were 
distinct persons. The words of Papias, as there 
given, are these. "I shall not think it a useless 
trouble to set down, together with what I clearly 
learned from the elders, and well remember, my own 
interpretations also, confirming what I say by them. 
For I have never taken delight, as most men do, in 
those who talk a great deal, but in those who speak 
the truth ; nor in those who repeated to me useless 
precepts, but in them who repeated to us the sayings, 
which the Lord had entrusted to the keeping of his 
followers, and which had been handed down to us, 
from the truth itself. And if at any time I met 
with one who had conversed with the elders, I in- 
quired about what they said ; what Thomas, or 
James, what Matthew, or John, or any other of the 
disciples of the Lord ; what Aristion, or John the 
Presbyter, disciples of the Lord, used to teach ; for 
I was of opinion that I could not profit so much by 
books, as by the living." 

This passage is taken from the third book of 
Eusebius' History, from which it seems that Papias 
was a believer in the Millennium ; a doctrine which 
Eusebius strongly impugns. Apparently for this 


reason, the latter sets him down as a man of small 
understanding. But this, if true, will not in the 
slightest degree impeach the value of his testimony to 
the point now under consideration. I am not saying 
that the early Christians w^ere men of any superiority 
of understanding, but only showing that there is no 
ground for supposing, that they embraced the reli- 
gion of Christ without inquiry. If it be the fact, 
that Papias, a man of no superiority of mind or 
judgment, was yet solicitous to obtain the best infor- 
mation he could, and for this reason sought out those 
who were eye and ear witnesses, we can have no 
right to take for granted, that the first disciples in 
general did not do the same. 

But if we adopt the reasoning of Hume's Essay, 
any inquiry, on the part of the first Christians, into 
the truth of the facts related in the New Testament, 
was labour thrown away. They were such as no 
testimony could authenticate. ' There is not any 
necessary connexion,' he tells us, ' between the re- 
port of witnesses and the evidence of their senses. If 
we credit the former, it is from experience, and not 
from reason ; and experience teaches us, that it is 
far more probable that witnesses should deceive, 
than that God should suspend the laws of nature.' 

Now, certainly, it required a great amount of 
evidence to justify the belief of mankind in the 
truth of such facts, as we read in the four Gospels. 
And if the question was raised, in the present day, 
as to what was the amount of evidence with which 



they ought to have been satisfied, there would be 
room perhaps for much diversity of opinion. 

But Hume's position is, that the proof was im- 
possible ; that no amount of testimony would have 
sufficed. And this he founds upon a theorem, the 
discovery of which, he says, is applicable to the case 
of all miraculous facts, and " will be an everlasting 
check to all kinds of superstitious delusions, and, 
consequently, will be useful so long as the world 
endures." I have shown, in a former part of the 
present Dissertation, that this theorem of his, on 
which he pronounces so high an eulogium, is founded 
altogether upon a misconception of that, which con- 
stitutes the miraculousness of a fact. Keeping our 
eye, however, upon the only point which human 
testimony can be brought to prove, viz. that which 
was seen, and heard, and believed, by those who were 
present, nothing can be more plain, than that, be the 
fact what it may, the truth of it, abstractedly speak- 
ing, may not merely be made credible on the report 
of witnsses, but be mathematically demonstrated. 

To show this, let us take the case adverted to by 
Hume, of the Indian Prince, who, — upon being in- 
formed by the Ambassador of Louis XIV. that in 
Europe the water, during winter, became so hard 
and solid, as to bear the weight of those who walked 
upon it — turned away in disgust, as from a person 
who was endeavouring to impose upon his credulity. 
It is clear that the Prince came to a wron": conchi- 
si on, but his reasoning was precisely the same as 


that by which Hume would reject a miraculous 
story. The fact was directly contrary to his experi- 
ence of the known qualities of water ; and there 
was nothing contrary to his experience of mankind, 
in believing that the ambassador had lied. 

But let us suppose that at different times after- 
wards, he had prosecuted the inquiry, and having 
conversed with ten or twenty, or fifty persons, from 
different parts of Europe, who, without any know- 
ledge of, or communication with each other, had all 
agreed in the same story. In this case the certainty 
of the fact would amount to demonstration. The 
improbability of fifty independent witnesses, all agree- 
ing in the same story, supposing that story to have 
been a mere invention of the ambassador's, would 
amount to an impossibility. The credibility of the 
testimony, in this case, has nothing to do with the 
character of the witnesses. It results from the doc- 
trine of chances ; and I doubt whether it would be 
in the power of numbers to estimate the balance 
of probability, against the supposition of the fact in 
question not being true. But if we take the case, 
not of a single fact, but of a history like that which 
we read in the Gospels, and suppose it to have been 
a fiction — the supposition of fifty, or twelve, or two 
independent witnesses, meaning to deceive, and 
without any communication with each other, hitting 
upon one and the same scrim of lies, is an absolute 

The above examj^le, and the whole of the pre- 



ceding argument, sufficiently show how unsafe it is 
to discuss philosophical questions, as Mr. Hume 
does, merely as a man of the world, appealing to 
experience and common sense. It is plain, that 
when he composed his celebrated Essay upon Mi- 
racles, those which he had in his eye, were the 
famous Jansenist miracles, wrought at the tomb of 
the Abbe Paris, and which at the time when he was 
writing, occupied so large a share of public attention. 
It was easy and natural for him to shape his reason- 
ing with a view to the whole question, extending his 
conclusions to all facts pretending to a miraculous 
character. And, no doubt, if we may suppose that 
the miracles recorded in the New Testament, are to 
be measured by the same petty rules, as will apply 
to any vulgar case of ignorant or designing credulity, 
it might be explanation enough of the credit they 
obtained, to remind his readers of "the pleasing 
emotions of wonder and surprise," created by a tale 
so highly marvellous as the history of Christ. 

A moment's reflection, however, ought to have 
convinced a writer of his acuteness and good sense, 
that if the first followers of Christianity had been 
influenced only by a preference of pleasing emotions, 
those of wonder and surprise would hardly have 
compensated for the emotions raised up in their 
minds by the contemplation of poverty, and tortures, 
and persecution, and death. He had only to read 
the account which Tacitus has given, of the severe 
test to which the faith of the first Christians was 


exposed, at Rome under Nero, to be satisfied that 
.it was not the mere pleasure felt by the first Chris- 
tians in reading the account of Christ's death, and 
resurrection, and ascension into heaven, which de- 
cided their conversion to the faith which he delivered, 
and which we still find established in the world. 
That these great miracles were credited from the 
beginning, by those who were living on the spot, at 
the time when they are said to have taken place ; and 
that the account, now in our possession, was written 
by living witnesses, of what was believed generally, 
and not asserted only, by the immediate followers of 
Christ, has been shown to be as certain as any his- 
torical proposition can be. Under these circumstances, 
it may be justly contended, that it is not a proposition 
which the unbeliever is at liberty to deny. He may 
deny the divine authority of the facts related in the 
New Testament, but not that they really happened. 


Gii.BKRT &' UiviNGTON, I'riiiters, St. Jolm's Sqiinre, London. 

London, Ciieapside, 1850. 



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